This job has just been one strange disaster after the next. And this is coming from someone who specializes in ‘strange’. We are currently on our way back to the hotel room to do some research. Or, in Jude’s case, sleep. I glance into the rearview mirror. Jude is laying with his head on Hazel’s lap and she strokes his hair. I only met them about two years ago, and I am still confused about the relationship between those two. Sometimes they act like siblings, fighting about stupid things, other times they act like best friends, and at times like this, she acts like either a mother or a wife. I would think that they were romantically involved if I didn’t know about Jude’s… extracurricular activities. Also, Hazel had a boyfriend when I first met her, and it wasn’t Jude.
I sigh, thinking about writing a romance novel about the two; Hazeline is secretly in love with Judas, but Judas has seven wives and pays Hazeline no attention. But then! Hazeline saves his life one day! Maybe he gets hit by a car or something and she does CPR, and when she goes to give him the rescue breath… they end up in a passionate kiss! But how will they be together when Judas has seven wives?! Oh no!
I snap out of my imagination when I notice Hazel smirking at me in the mirror. I blush and turn my attention back to the real world. I need to read less romance novels. I’m glad that no one here can read minds. That would be awkward.
Back at the hotel, Hazel wakes up Jude and follows him closely as he makes his way slowly into the hotel room. Toby helps me grab all of our research equipment, which basically consists of a laptop, any footage that we recorded the night before, and any notes that we took. This job isn’t like other ones. Other jobs are usually quick and easy, in and out in a few hours. This one is going to take a while.
Jude is already asleep by the time me and Toby get into the room. Our research isn’t going very far without him. He knows the most about ghosts and hauntings and such. Also, he hasn’t told us what he saw from the necklace yet. I definitely think that information is vital.
I dig through the pile of notes until I find Jude’s:
“Me and Toby experienced behavior changes after entering Sarah’s room. Hazel and Maria seemed fine. Both had previously entered the room. Maybe PC use caused it? Location in room? Ghost presence while in room? Ask Toby what he saw on PC. Maybe something we both saw on the screen?”
Ok, so his notes are pretty useless without him, then. None of us really saw much that was unusual after the first and last events that occurred, so we don’t have a lot to go on. I turn the page over and see the picture of the weird monster thing that Jude supposedly saw yesterday. He and Toby were the first ones to be near it. Maybe their behavior changes had nothing to do with the ghost. Maybe it had something to do with this thing. For all we know, it could just be something they ate!
I toss the papers back into their file and lean back in my chair. Toby and Hazel take my quitting as a cue. They both stand up, stretching.
“I’m starving,” Toby announces. “Anyone want anything? Taco Bell? McDonalds? Fancy expensive steak?” I roll my eyes at his attempt at a joke. I am hungry, though.
Hazel pulls out a few bills and hands them to Toby. “Just get me whatever. I’m not picky. Also, get Jude something in case he’s hungry when he wakes up.” I glance at Jude, passed out cold on one of the beds. I doubt he will be waking up tonight.
“Taco Bell sounds amazing,” I say. “I want a cheesy potato burrito, and a nacho supreme. Oh, also a large coke.”
Toby looks at me like I’m crazy. “Are you actually gonna eat all that?”
“Don’t underestimate a hungry woman,” I retort. I may be thin, but I can eat my Taco Bell. Toby shrugs and I hand him the money.
Once he’s gone, I pull out Sarah’s necklace to examine it. The pendant is shaped like a heart and hangs from a dainty chain. Turning it over in my hand, I notice that it’s actually a locket. I pull at it with my fingernails, but it won’t budge. After a few failed attempts, I try using my small pocketknife. I wedge it between the two halves and press down, but it still doesn’t open. Frustrated, I toss it down on the desk with a huff.
“What are you so angry about?” Hazel asks, looking up from her laptop.
“I can’t get the stupid locket open,” I say, gesturing at it. Hazel gets up and comes over to look at it. She makes a few attempts to open it, but she also fails. Instead of getting frustrated like I did, she looks over it again. I tap my manicured fingernails impatiently, enjoying the clicking noise that they make on the wooden table. I become so focused on my fingernails that I jump when she makes a noise of triumph. “Did you get it open?” I ask excitedly.
“Well… no.” My face falls. “But I did figure out why it won’t open.” She points to a small hole in the center. It looks like there should be a gem or something there, but instead, it ends in a misshapen groove. “It looks like a keyhole, kind of. It must have a lock on it.”
“Oh, how helpful. We just have to find a tiny little key that could be practically anywhere.” I cross my arms, annoyed. I can’t believe I lost a fight to a necklace.
“Not necessarily. For one, we might be able to find something to unlock it with. A lock this small is bound to be fairly simple. If that option fails, Jude might have seen the key in his vision. If both of those options fail, we cut it open by force.” At the word ‘force’, Hazel yelps and drops the necklace. “It shocked me,” she says, shaking her hand.
From the bed behind us, Jude groans. “Why are we yelling?” he asks grumpily.
“Hey! You’re awake!” Hazel says. She sounds much happier than him.
“No thanks to you.” He sits up and runs a hand through his brown hair, rumpling it. Attractively. No. Bad Maria. He’s just a kid compared to you. Not attractive.
“Ah. Sorry. The necklace shocked me.”
“What’s so shocking about a necklace?” He quirks an eyebrow, and I nearly melt.
“No, I mean it literally…” Hazel stops and looks at me, a smile playing on her lips. She gets it. I don’t have to be able to feel her emotions to know she thinks it’s hot, too. “It literally shocked me. Like, zap!” She pokes her finger in the air for emphasis. The gesture makes Jude grin. I feel my face heat up, and I turn away quickly.
It’s incredible that after two years, Jude has never noticed my awkwardness around him. Not exactly surprising, considering what kind of girls he usually goes after, but still incredible. It’s not even that I want to date him. He’s kind of a weirdo, being able to see ghosts and all, but that doesn’t make him any less hot.
Hazel picks up the necklace off the floor and points to the little keyhole in the center. “It’s a locket, but it literally locks. With a key. Or something. Do you know what it looks like?” Jude winces, but nods. “Sorry. Too soon?”
“It’s fine,” he says gruffly. He searches for a pencil and paper, then starts on a sketch of the key. Or something. A few minutes later, he shows us a picture of the locket. In the center, there’s an oval gem.
“That’s it? It’s just a gem shaped like the hole!” I groan.
“Well, I didn’t see it outside of the necklace! I can’t control what I see! If I could, I wouldn’t hate my life so much!” We’re all awkwardly silent for a few seconds. “Maybe Sarah has it. She seemed pretty reluctant to give it to me.”
Toby walks in just as Jude finishes his sentence. “That’s what she said!” We all groan in unison. “What? I brought food.” He shakes the bag of Taco Bell. Jude groans again, this time covering his mouth and nose.
“Ugh, get it out. I’m gonna throw up.” I believe him when he starts gagging.
“Dude, no. You already ruined my shoes. Don’t ruin the carp…” He glances at the carpet. “I guess it’s already ruined. Just go throw up in the bathroom! We’re all starving here!” He shakes the bag again. I think he’s purposely trying to make him throw up to get revenge for his ruined shoes.
“Get it out, Toby. We’ll eat outside,” Hazel says. She rushes over and shoves him out the door. I follow them out, my stomach growling at the sight of food. “Have a little sympathy. How would you feel if you had a seizure while reliving someone’s murder?”
“I actually have no idea, because that is not at all a normal thing to experience,” Toby says matter-of-factly. We both smack him. “Ow! Ok! Fine, I’m sorry! He owes me a pair of shoes, though. Those were my favorite shoes.” I roll my eyes and grab the bag of food. After digging my food out, I open the back of the van so that we have somewhere to sit while eating. Toby finishes first, and heads inside.
“So,” Hazel starts. “Why don’t you ever say anything to Jude? About liking him?”
I nearly choke on my burrito. After avoiding near death, and swallowing my regurgitated bite, I reply, “I don’t, like… like him, really. I mean, yeah, he’s good looking, but he’s not exactly my type.”
“Personality-wise.” She says this as a statement, rather than a question.
“Exactly. He’s a lot younger than me, for one. And for two, he’s kind of weird.” Hazel nods, knowingly. “What about you? You guys never…”
Hazel shakes her head quickly. “No. That would be super awkward. We’ve known each other since we were kids, so we’re more like siblings than anything.”
I smirk. “Siblings. Yet, the way you looked at him earlier…”
“Okay, fine. Best friends then.”
“Best friends with benefits?” I offer with a giggle.
“NO! Oh my gosh, Maria! No! We’ve never… it isn’t… nothing has ever happened between us!” She’s blushing now and I’m laughing at how easily embarrassed she is. When I was a police officer, us girls used to tease each other about our male partners and whether or not our relationships went further than coworkers.
“Calm down, I’m just joking. Trust me, I can tell nothing has ever happened between you two. Mainly, because Jude hasn’t ditched you yet.” I gauge her reaction to this insult towards Jude. She doesn’t say anything, just nods. At least she isn’t oblivious to Jude’s shortcomings when it comes to women. “What about Toby?”
“Ew. No. He’s a narcissistic jerk. I would never want to date him,” Hazel says, fake gagging. Then she turns serious. “Were you ever married, Maria?”
I roll my eyes. “Yeah right. Marriage is over-rated. I was engaged once, though.” I think about my first true love. He seemed so perfect. Tall, handsome, sweet… he was a detective at my precinct. We were all set to be married, and then I found out he was cheating on me with his partner. I vowed to never date again. Instead, I prefer reading romance novels, where I can imagine myself as the heroine in them.
“He must have messed up pretty bad to lose you. Knowing you, it definitely wasn’t your fault,” Hazel says. She always knows what to say to make someone feel better. Probably because she can feel their exact emotions. In all reality, it might have been my fault. Most things are my fault.
Toby walks out of the hotel room, stretching his arms. “Guys, this case is a bust. It makes literally no sense. Even Jude says his vision doesn’t make sense. I say we call it quits and move on to the next case.”
This wouldn’t be the first case that we quit, but it would be the first real case the we quit. The cases that we quit are ones that aren’t actually hauntings. Ones that people make up or think are hauntings, but they turn out to have an actual normal cause. We’ve never quit a case like this one. This one is real, and very serious.
“What do you mean, Jude’s vision didn’t make sense? How could it not make sense? Someone dies and he experiences it. I think it’s a pretty simple process.” Hazel says with an uneasy laugh.
“I don’t know, ask him. That’s just what he told me,” Toby gestures to the door. We follow him inside, where Jude is sketching something on his notepad. He stops and looks up when we come inside.
“I’ve gone over it a hundred times, but it doesn’t make any sense,” Jude says. “Usually, I hold an object, and I see someone die from their own perspective, right? But not this time. This time, I was the one killing someone.” He holds up his drawing; a picture of Olivia. She’s wearing the necklace. It’s not often that we see the victim. The only time’s we do are when there’s a reflection present in the moments before their death; a window, a mirror, even the killer’s eyes sometimes. There are hands reaching for the girl, one of them holding a thick wire.
“Oh shit. Did he…” Toby starts and stops, looking slightly ill. Jude says nothing. We can all guess what happened. Olivia Colton was found beheaded. The killer must have sawed her head off with the wire, while she was still alive. Well… she would have been alive for some of it anyways.
Jude puts the drawing down. “If the necklace belonged to Olivia, then why am I seeing the murder from the killer’s point of view? That’s the first thing that doesn’t make sense. So, I thought, maybe it belonged to the killer first, and he put it on her before killing her. But Toby says that the aura on the necklace is the same as Olivia’s spirit. The necklace was definitely hers. Then, the third thing that makes absolutely no fucking sense, is that… I swear to God, I saw Sarah in my vision, and she died.”
We all kind of stand there looking at him. There’s no way that it could have been Sarah. We all saw her, and Jude is the only one who can see ghosts. Even the waiters at the restaurant acknowledged her. Plus, there was only one girl mentioned in the files about the murder. Also, the murder happened in 1986. If somehow it was Sarah, she would be about 45 years old, not 15.
I’m the first to reluctantly respond to the disturbing news. “Maybe this is a possession case?” Jude shakes his head. “What, why are you saying no already?”
“If Sarah were possessed, I would have felt it as soon as she touched my hand. Touching someone who’s possessed causes a lot worse reaction than touching a death memento.” A death memento is what we call an object the belonged to a victim. “Also, she would be exhibiting symptoms of possession; things like uncontrollable outbursts, violence, changing voices, self-harm, and in really bad cases, her skin would be deteriorating.”
“Worse than having a seizure? What could be worse than that?” Toby asks with a snort.
“Dying,” Jude says casually. “Only after feeling like my entire body is engulfed in flames, though. Dying is actually the best part of it. It makes the pain stop.”
Toby stands there with his jaw hanging open, unsure how to respond. “Fuck, dude. How many times has that happened?”
“Once. Hopefully it will never happen again.”
“Okay, so not a possession,” I say quickly, wanting to change the subject. “If she’s not a demon or a ghost, but she definitely died…” I throw my hands in the air. I have no idea. Jude was right, it doesn’t make sense. Jude is looking at Hazel thoughtfully.
“How did she die?” Hazel asks.
“Same way Olivia was killed.” He runs a finger across his neck for emphasis.
“Maybe it was a relative of theirs that looked a lot like Sarah?” I say.
“I also thought of that, but if you look at their files, Sarah and her family aren’t connected in any way to the Colton’s. Plus, if there was another girl that died, besides Olivia, why wasn’t she mentioned in the report?”
Toby raises his hand excitedly. “Maybe her body was never found!” Jude’s face lights up, then abruptly falls.
“I think the police would have known to look for a missing girl after her entire family was murdered.”
I think about it for a few minutes, while the others throw around their theories. It’s possible that the girl was a friend visiting, but if someone went missing in the town on the same night that an entire family was murdered, you’d think the police would connect the two cases. Unless… “I have an idea! Okay, I know it’s a stretch. What if the girl who looked like Sarah was staying the night at the Colton’s house? I know, I know, they probably would have connected the murder and missing persons’ case. But what if lookalike Sarah ran away from home, and was actually from a different city, or even state. She made her way out here, and she ran into the Colton’s and they found out that she was looking for a place to stay for the night. She just happened to show up the night of the murder and got caught in the middle of all of it!”
Hazel nods enthusiastically. “Okay, so we have to figure out if any girls around Sarah’s age went missing around that day and year in the surrounding states. Maria?”
I nod. This is my specialty.