Waking up in his apartment in Seattle to the cacophony of indistinguishable car horns was enough to make Victor want to pull the pillow over his head, snuggle down next to Olivia, and go back to sleep. Yesterday, it had taken them all day to hike out of the mountains and then drive home. And the day before had been one of the worst days he had experienced in more than the three years he had been on the force. Joe had laughed it off, but Victor wasn’t able to take it so lightly. Everywhere he turned, there were spirits, lost souls demanding help, and now, the one he wanted to help was Lily Davis, but he had another case he had to deal with first – the little girl in Lincoln Park.
It was a hard life. It was not only the whispers, it was the poking and prodding when he refused to acknowledge them. Not the best way to have a necromancer help you, he thought as his shirt sleeve was pulled into an uncomfortable twist around his wrist. Nobody in the department except Joe knew that this was his secret, that was why he had burst on the scene as a rookie and solved so many cases. But he couldn’t help them all. There wasn’t enough time in a day. The older he got, the less tolerant he had become. Victor’s parents had accepted the fact he had imaginary friends as a child, and had ignored suggestions from friends and some family members – who seemed to be completely oblivious to both his parents’ abilities – that maybe he was in need of counseling.
During his early teens, it had begun to freak Victor out to the point that he was caught talking and shouting to himself in the school hallways. Molly had been the only one who understood, the only one he could turn to. There had been a time he would have gone beyond pretending to not see or hear, only to end up looking like a complete maniac who spent most of his time shouting into thin air. Once, when he sat in a café, drinking what could only be described as motor oil in place of coffee, one of the waitresses had allowed her fingers to pass through his arm, all the while beaming a Hollywood smile his way. Victor hadn’t stayed to find out what the young ghost wanted from him, and he had never returned to that particular café.
Of course, he was going on the well-known fact that ghosts resided in the place they died, trapped, waiting to be collected by the greater good. Having learned that this was, in fact, just an assumption (after speaking with a lady at a bus stop adjacent to the Super Mall), Victor had been shocked to see her picture in the paper the following morning: she had been found dead two days earlier, near a broken-down warehouse.
Now, to his own surprise, Victor was a homicide detective and had become one of the best in the greater Seattle area, known for solving all his cases in record-breaking time. This was much to the entertainment of his partner, Joe Savage, but right now, he didn’t even have Joe to count on – Joe was half-way through a two-week suspension for using excessive force.
What had happened was that when the man who had killed the girl in Lincoln Park – the alleged killer – had been brought in for questioning. Joe, not one to hold back in the best of times, had lost it.
Having had the teen come to him, terrified and weeping to go home, Victor had also wanted to do more to that bastard than just a few slaps on the wrist the courts would give him, but unlike Joe, he had been able to restrain himself.
The girl, Emily, had been a ghost Victor couldn’t refuse, and sneaking back into the cordoned-off area of the park where she had been found, he had freed her soul to pass over. But having failed in his efforts twice recently to save people, sweat had beaded up on Victor’s forehead while he was trying to get it right, never having had to concentrate so hard before.
This was the first time Victor had felt an overpowering willingness to help, and it had been well worth it, just to have the girl’s spirit hug him in gratitude. By then, of course, she had become so faint he hadn’t felt a thing, even as her hands floated through his face.
Today, however, he was regretting the decision to take this avenue, police work, as his career choice, even though his parents had celebrated it, displaying a unified front for all to see.
“I always knew you would learn to use this gift,” his mother had trilled, hugging him tightly when he told her he wanted to join the Seattle Police Force. His father had merely patted him on the back while handing him a heptagonal boxof what looked like dried-up body parts (which he still hoped were from animals), soil from a gravesite, and hair of all different colors. Those samples, he was told, were human, both men and women, and he would, in time, study and discover how to use these to his advantage. Victor had yet to use any of it, even all these years later, for the very day he had been gifted the box, he had shoved it into the darkest corner of his closet, never to glimpse it since.
Struggling to put all that out of his mind, Victor was trying to sleep in that morning, after such a hard day in the mountains, but anger flooded him at the thought that his father had not once approached him about his ‘gift’ – the box. Today, his displeasure was taking longer than usual to fade, the resentment still burning inside of him, just as bright as when it was fresh.
Daniel Wright, Victor’s father, had been one of the strongest necromancers of his time, and Victor had never realized it, even though it was right under his nose. Had he walked around inspecting his feet, afraid to glance up his whole life, for fear of what he would see? Why had his father not taken the time to teach him, to aid him when spirits woke him at night, followed him through walls, spat and cursed at him for his lack of common sense? Now, three years after he had joined the police force, Victor was finally considering using what had been handed down to him by the father he had always tried so hard to please. And it was Lily who was driving him to this decision.
In the time that followed his father entrusting his box of delights into his care, Victor had paid little or no attention to the information that could be divulged to him, if he had looked in the box. Except one thing in particular, and that was how the spirit, when ripped from its living form, gets trapped between realms because of confusion. Uneasy using the term Purgatory, Victor liked to call it the Otherworld, a place where souls wait to be reborn. Where they don’t know what to do, where they can’t recall what led to their demise. They certainly don’t know that if they aren’t fortunate enough to pass over within a certain amount of time, then they will, in all probability, never be able to. That is, unless they meet someone like Victor.
“You know I can help,” Olivia mumbled from under the covers, her mind clearly on something that would help them both. Too awake to ignore her, Victor’s groan made Olivia giggle under the sheets.
Her laughter had drawn him back to the first night he had met her. The tight little black dress, and her shoulder-length blond hair – not dyed, as he had later found out. No, Olivia had been all natural, and a dangerous lady.
The concept of romance often amused Victor. What did women want from a man who had drawn their attention from across the dance floor? Did they wonder about his job, whether he had his own house? Or if he still sponged off his parents while he lived in their basement? And more importantly, was the first thought, Is he available? From experience, Victor knew it never helped improve his attitude when he woke to find a woman, whose name had too obviously evaded him, lying on his arm, which would be, by then, completely numb and tingling all the way to his fingers and shoulder. No name, and not a potential girlfriend.
The night he had met Olivia had been no different. The next morning, trying with everything in him not to wake the lightly snoring blonde latched onto his side, Victor had mouthed a whispered curse. He had to get up and go to work. He had shuffled just enough to feel air filter along his skin. He had done it. Grinning inwardly at his accomplishment, he held his breath, eased one foot out from under the sheets, and in the same motion, lifted her arm that was draped around his waist and placed it gently on her own hip. Olivia had murmured, and he had bit his lip, squinting his eyes to focus on her face. In his mind, he had witnessed himself taking a deadly leap from the window and falling to his death just to avoid that awkward morning-after conversation.
In reality, he would, as always, just scratch his head, smile that whoops smile, offer coffee, dress as quickly as he possibly could, and leave the woman of the day to get showered if she so pleased, and all the time she might need to regain her self-dignity before walking from the apartment, where she would more than likely pass a neighbor on the way out.
No woman had ever stolen from him during her time alone in his apartment. Maybe this was because he was a cop, but still, he had never seen his morning-after routine as a bad move. This way, if they were to ever cross paths again, things would be easier, as the ground rules had already been set.
But Olivia was different. She had a serious career, she was opinionated, confident, independent. Standing at the edge of the bed after that first morning, he had sensed it, that this was different. He took her in. All of her. The outline of her sleeping face, her jawbone, her lips, her breasts, where a small tattoo rested, of what, he couldn’t quite make out.
He knew he was in great shape, but still, he couldn’t help his eyes from traveling down his own length, searching out imperfections. A mental note to lay off the carbs for a month or two came to mind, in addition to the thought that an extra day in the gym each week, if only to condition, wouldn’t hurt. Yes, that first morning with Olivia had been the first time in years he hadn’t wanted the woman in his bed to wake up and leave. Olivia hadn’t left, and two years later, she was waking up in his bed every morning.
“I can help,” she repeated.
“I don’t need you getting involved in police business.” His response was strained.
The answer she might have been thinking of making was cut short by the landline, ringing in the kitchen, forcing Victor to once again admit it would be better to put it on his bedside table. Though he had argued his point with Olivia for the last a year, he wanted the house phone far enough away that it wouldn’t scare the shit out of him when, as often happened, it rang during the night. But he was beginning to think it would make more sense than having to stagger through his apartment, exposed to the morning chill.
“I’ve got to get this.” He wriggled free of her grasp.
“Leave it for the machine.” Her fingers dug into the soft flesh of his thigh, resulting in a chuckle from him.
“Stay exactly where you are!” He jumped out of bed. While he was trying to see the funny side of things, he knew Olivia was already sizzling under the surface.
“Let me guess who it is.” Her tone was enough to make him cringe, to reconsider getting so emotionally involved with someone at this stage in his life. He liked her enough not to argue about her insecurity when it came to Molly and her early morning phone calls, but not enough make to her happy by telling Molly she couldn’t call. He was always trying to figure out if being with Olivia was a sufficient enough cause to continue down this road.
He stepped over and around boxes he still hadn’t unpacked. Though he had signed the lease and he and Olivia had moved in more than a year ago, he had put it off as just something else he hadn’t gotten around to.
“Hey, Mol,” he crooned into the receiver as Olivia shouted her annoyance. After all, how dare he shorten her name to what many would perceive as being a pet name. The problem was that Olivia was a psychologist, so all these nuances had meaning to her.
“What the hell was that?” Molly laughed as the sound of a door banging echoed down the line.
Even though it was the bedroom door slamming, Victor said, “That was the sound of my woman storming from my life.”
His terse response left Molly silent. Of course, she said she felt horrible that Olivia felt bad, but secretly, she was doing backflips in her head, shaking rose-colored pompons, and singing “the witch is dead.” It wasn’t that she disliked Olivia, it was just that she felt Olivia wasn’t right for Victor. Having never had brothers or sisters of her own, Molly had grown to love Victor as a substitute for both. He helped her when she was sick, bringing her ice-cream and chocolate, and Molly had always been there for him, until he and his family had moved to Seattle when he was 15. Now that she had moved to Seattle, too, she saw it as her job to help him get rid of whiny girlfriends who couldn’t handle his friendship with someone who wasn’t blood-related. They both knew their relationship was complex.
Olivia, to Molly’s amazement, had lingered far longer than any of the others. Molly chalked this up to the fact Olivia was a psychologist and had seen Victor as a challenge. Someone in need of rescuing. Whilst making a point of flaunting her educational advantage, Olivia seemed closed off to the reality of relationships. Her actions and attitude left Molly and Joe to speculate that Olivia had been cheated on in the past. And probably in more than one relationship.
Despite the fact Olivia had a tendency to read the body language of her partner, she had an inability to listen. After countless occasions to share a nightcap or meal with Olivia – of course, at Victor’s request – Molly couldn’t ignore the fact that every attempt ended with Olivia becoming awfully hormonal when she and Victor broke into hilarious childhood tales. Molly would inevitably end up rolling her eyes, making her excuses, and leaving the restaurant mentally drained from the drama. Two years, and the naturally blond Olivia, so Victor insisted, was still clasping on tightly.
“Molly?” Victor said, noticing the line had gone extremely quiet.
“You are not even listening to me.”
“What? Oh. I am listening. I just… what were you saying?”
“Never mind.” Victor let out a slight grunt of agitation. “I need to go back to the park.”
“Which park?” Molly asked.
“Lincoln Park. I feel there’s something I missed.”
“Like I don’t know, but I can’t shake the feeling I messed up.”
“But…” Molly’s response was cautious. “You said she crossed over, right?” That girl.
“She did – well, at least I hope she did.” Victor waited for the unwanted onslaught of concern to come in waves over the phone from an already worried Molly.
Instead, Molly asked, “What is going on with you lately?”
Victor rubbed his face with his free hand, the one not holding the phone, cursing under his breath. If she was uneasy, he knew he had something to worry about.
“Well, when do you want to go? I can meet you there in an hour,” Molly offered. “I just have some things I need to arrange first.”
“Nothing important.” Molly wasn’t sure if it was a good thing to tell him. Some things she had found were best kept secret, especially when it concerned Victor and the troubles that came with the witches in Twisp, the small town in Okanogan County where they had both lived in until Victor’s family had moved to Seattle when he was 15 and she was 13.
Molly had been best friends with Victor almost all her life. When he was being bullied for talking to himself, she was busy practicing spells on the jocks, who couldn’t understand why they kept tripping over their own feet.
“Nothing for you to worry about,” Molly repeated. “I’ll meet you at the park. Just figure out the best way to do this in the daylight without drawing attention to us.”
As Molly signed off with her usual high-pitched farewell, Victor couldn’t help feeling a twinge of regret, thinking he should make amends with Olivia. But right now, he didn’t have time.
Lincoln Park, one of West Seattle’s major multipurpose parks, was just north of the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal, which made Victor think that was the escape route Emily Watson’s killer, Garth Mosely, had taken, before being detained some time later. Victor didn’t like to reflect on what had happened to Emily – it made his stomach turn, while his mind would race with things he would have enjoyed doing had he the good fortune of being left in a room, alone, with the man responsible for her murder.
Her body had told the story of a brutal assault, choking, and finally, a knife laceration, which had caused her to bleed out. Of course, he had witnessed it more up close and personal than everyone else at the crime scene, especially when he spotted Emily circling her own body, confused about what had just happened, screaming for her mother.
The laceration had cut so deep, flesh had lain open, displaying her innards, making Victor come to the sad conclusion that the blade used was not only a dull one which would have made his job in cutting her throat even more aggressive. Test results showed rust, animals’ blood and the killer’s own saliva. The disgust Victor felt for this man twisted his gut.
Victor checked his watch for what seemed like the hundredth time and saw that Molly was supposed to be there within twenty minutes. He walked out into the open, taking in everything and everyone around him in the park. The pregnant lady with the crying little boy who had fallen down, scraping his knee on the concrete. The man mumbling about the smell in the public restrooms. The elderly couple slowly making their way back up along the trail leading from the waterfront.
It amazed Victor that just days following a teen’s horrific death in this very spot, things had so easily resumed to what could be deemed normal living. Having chosen to ignore the young woman sitting on a bench staring at him with hope in her eyes when he had been here before, Victor made a mental note that he would find the time after he was done doing what he had come to do, to search her out. What is she hoping for? Or was Victor mistaken? Maybe she was just observing things. This led him to wonder if she had seen the events of a few days ago transpire. Unable to do anything. And since Emily’s alleged killer was refusing to talk, maybe this young woman could be of assistance.
He couldn’t stop wondering, had this woman been any help to Emily before he had arrived? If she herself is trapped, how could she have helped Emily? Had she even been in the park at that time? After all, wouldn’t she have made herself known, when he had been in the process of easing Emily’s crossover?
Yes, he would search for the woman who had been sitting on the bench, hopeful about the potential of acquiring some answers that might possibly improve his case. He knew from experiences, ghosts could be bargained with; whether it was the appropriate thing to do with a spirit in desperate need of help or not, he couldn’t decide. If he found her, and if she assisted him, he would reward her with something she couldn’t turn down.
Grabbing his mobile phone as it vibrated in his shirt pocket, Victor’s eyes flashed with devilment when he saw Molly’s name on the screen. “What, did you get lost again?” he joked.
“Don’t give me shit, Victor.” Molly’s voice was rushed, flustered from being trapped in Seattle traffic at midday on a Saturday – clearly, everyone had decided to venture out at this same time, much to her annoyance. She was ready to kill anyone who looked in her direction. “Just tell me where to go.”
Holding back a laugh, Victor asked, “Are you coming from north or south?”
“Stay to the right on I-5, and follow the signs to Fauntleroy Way SW. Remain on that road until you come to the park on the right-hand side. You can see the signs for the Vashon Ferry, but you will come to the park long before that.”
“Ha, well, it seems I’m not lost after all. I just passed the first sign. Give me five.”
With that, the line went dead, leaving Victor to shake his head in admiration for the woman whose casting abilities were superior to any he had ever had the chance to encounter, but couldn’t find a place the size of Lincoln Park without getting disoriented.
While he waited for Molly, Victor began to wander around the grounds again, looking for any clues possibly left behind.