Waking Up Dead

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Chapter 11

Lexington Hills loomed before the teenagers as they drove up in Steve’s car. Steve was driving and Jeff was in the passenger seat, while Cadence, Paige, and Shawna were in the back seat. Shawna’s eyes were already as big as saucers as she looked at the huge, dilapidated building.

“Are we really going in there?” she asked in a nervous tone.

“You can’t be chickening out already,” Jeff said.

“Why not? It wasn’t my idea to come here,” she replied.

Cadence jumped in, trying to interfere before Shawna and Jeff descended into another one of their infamous drama filled fights. “Shawna, it’s just a building. There’s nothing to be scared of in there.”

Steve parked the car and turned off the engine. “Kinda hoping you’re wrong, Cade,” he said. Cade reached forward and thwapped him on the back of the head.

“Not helpful, man,” she said. Steve flashed her a grin in the rear view mirror and then laughed when she rolled her eyes at him.

“Come on,” Paige said, excitement clear in her voice. “Everyone out!”

Cade shook her head and opened the back door on her side. She had one friend who was scared to go in, one friend who couldn’t wait to go in, and two guys who were hoping it would be scary enough to lead to extended make out sessions.

“Look,” Jeff said as they all got out of the car, “Mr. Dobbins said our assignment was to try something out of our comfort zone and write a report about it, right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t think he had this in mind. I think he meant like trying to befriend someone we normally wouldn’t or maybe going bungee jumping,” Shawna said as she moved to her boyfriend and slipped an arm around his waist. Jeff leaned in and gave her a kiss.

“What about you, babe?” Steve asked, slipping his arm around Cadence. “You scared?”

“Are you kidding me? Hell no.”

“Come on!” Paige urged, heading for the front doors of the old asylum. “Let’s do this!”

“Come on.” Cade chuckled, leading Steve after Paige. “Let’s make sure she doesn’t get herself lost.”

“How are we supposed to complete this dare anyway? What were the rules?” Shawna asked, not letting go of Jeff as he led her up the front steps.

“We’re supposed to spend at least an hour doing something out of our comfort zone,” he shrugged. “So I guess spend at least an hour in here.” Shawna made an unhappy noise in return.

Paige didn’t care one bit about the grumbling going on behind her. It had been her idea for them to do this, to complete the assignment. She had always wanted to come here, as she had heard all sorts of stories. She was very into the paranormal, so this was almost like going to Disneyland for her. She pushed open the front door and marched into the lobby. Her friends trailed along after her.

“This place is incredible,” she said. Her voice was hushed with awe as she looked around at the huge doorways and big staircase.

“It’s dirty,” Shawna said. She wrinkled her nose a bit as she looked over the grimy, dust covered floors and walls.

“Yeah I don’t think they get maid service anymore,” Cadence said as she brushed a bit of her long hair from her face. “It’ll be fine, so what if we get a little dusty.”

“Paige,” Steve called over to the girl as she was four steps up the staircase. “I think we should stay down here.”

“Oh come on!” Paige protested.

“No, you come on. This place has been abandoned for years. I don’t mind hanging out for a while here, but the last thing we need is someone falling through rotted floor board or something.” Steve had some common sense, which was one of the reasons why Cade liked him so much. “We stay on the first floor.”

Paige pursed her lips in a pout and came back down the stairs. “Fine,” she said with a heavy sigh. “Hey, want to try a séance?”

“Are you kidding me?” Shawna squeaked.

“Could be fun,” Jeff said. He hugged Shawna close. “Besides, I’m here to protect you, sexy.”

Paige continued as if she hadn’t heard them. “I don’t have any kind of supplies but we could all just sit in a circle and try to make contact.”

“What kind of supplies would you normally need anyway?” Cadence asked out of curiosity.

“Oh you know, candles, Ouija board, things like that,” Paige shrugged. “But if we sit in a circle and hold hands and try talking, they might communicate.”

“Sit?” Shawna asked incredulously. “On that floor? We’ll get covered in all that dirt and dust.”

Cadence closed her eyes and started counting. Paige was her friend, Steve was her boyfriend, Jeff was her friend. Shawna was Jeff’s girlfriend, and Cadence tried hard to tolerate her, but when she acted like that it made it hard just to not punch her in the face. So Cadence counted to ten while Steve, who knew his girlfriend’s reactions all too well, rubbed her neck beneath her long dirty blonde hair.

“Dirt washes off, Shawna, even off of clothes. It won’t kill you. Sit,” Cade said as she and Paige sat down cross-legged on the floor. Steve sat beside Cade; Jeff took up residence on the other side of Paige, leaving Shawna sitting between Jeff and Steve. The girl didn’t look happy, but she didn’t whine anymore either.

“Okay, now we all hold hands,” Paige said, “and close your eyes.”

As they held hands and closed their eyes, Cadence could still hear the trembling breaths of Shawna. What the hell was so scary? Cade didn’t understand why the girl was so freaked out by an old empty building.

“Are there any spirits here who wish to communicate with us?” Paige asked, trying to sound like she knew what she was doing. After a few minutes of getting nothing in response, she tried again. “If there are any spirits here who wish to communicate with us, please come forth. We’re not here to hurt you, we just wish to communicate.”

Jeff snickered. “Paige I think you’ve seen one too many scary movies.”

“Shhh!” Paige commanded. She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck rising as goose bumps broke out on her arms. “Something’s here.”

Cadence heard something behind her, like a shuffling. She discounted it though, attributing it to a rat or some other wild life scurrying around. Then Shawna screamed.

“Behind you Cade!” she yelled, then scrambled to her feet and ran as fast as she could out the front door.

Cade twisted around and peered but could see nothing. “What the hell freaked her out?”

Jeff was on his feet and followed his girlfriend out the door. Steve had turned to see what Shawna was talking about, ready to protect his girl, but like Cade, he saw nothing. He looked at her and Paige and he shrugged.

“Can he break up with her yet, please?” Paige sighed. “She ruins everything.”

“God, soon, I hope,” Cadence said.

“Come on, let’s just lie in the report and say we were here for an hour,” Steve said. “There’s no way we’re gonna get her back in here.”

The three teens got up and dusted themselves off, then headed out the door.

She could hear someone moving in the room. The footsteps were heavy, definitely male. She could feel the stiff mattress of a hospital gurney beneath her. She shifted in the bed a bit and gasped at the pain that shifting brought her mid-section and her leg.

“Cade?” a familiar male voice asked.

She opened her eyes and saw a very relieved looking Ramon and Osmond hovering over her. “Remind me not to go toe-to-toe with shadow creatures again,” she said. She tried once again to shift into a sitting position.

“Take it easy,” Ramon said, as he put a gently restraining hand on her shoulder.

“We have to go,” she said, shaking her head.

“We have time,” Snow said. “Last time he didn’t get round to checking the evidence until the next day. You can take it a little slow.”

“We missed our ride.”

“I know how to get there,” Snow said. He was trying to reassure her so she would take it easy. “Now listen to your doctor.”

Cade tried to smile a little and glanced over at Ramon. “You’re my doctor now, huh?”

He shrugged, looking a little embarrassed. “Well I don’t know about that. I just patched you up a little.”

“Well thank you. I appreciate it. And thanks for helping me make the dagger.”

“I just gave you the extra energy. You needed it more than I did. You made the dagger.”

“And thank you for telling me how,” she said to Snow. “I don’t know…”

He held up a hand to silence her. “Let’s not talk about what ifs or what would haves, please.”

Cadence grudgingly nodded. Both of them were acutely aware of just how very badly things went tonight, and how much worse it could have gone. She looked down and saw her bloody clothes. “Don’t suppose we have time for me to run home and change do we?”

“You can change without needing to go home,” Snow said. He tapped his head to remind her. “Mental image, remember?”

She nodded and closed her eyes, gathering what was left of her energy. When she opened her eyes again, she was wearing a fresh pair of jeans and a comfortable T-shirt. “Not the most professional,” she said, “but I figured you would forgive me the desire for comfort this once.”

He smiled and nodded. “It’s growing close to dawn. Are you alright to travel?” he asked.

Cadence looked to Ramon. “What do you say doc? Am I okay to travel?”

Ramon chuckled lightly, relieved that she seemed to be doing so well. “Yes, you can.”

“Do I have to worry about tearing stitches or anything?”

“Yes, actually, you do. Just move carefully and you should be alright,” Ramon said. “You’ll need to be the most careful of the stitches in your middle. Because of where they are they are going to be the easiest to tear. You’ll also need to be careful walking. Your leg was held the longest and took the most damage. It’ll likely hurt a good deal.”

“And when should she come back to see about the wounds?” Snow asked.

“The way things are going you two will probably be back sooner than you know it,” the orderly, now-turned doctor replied.

“I’ll call and check in with you, doc,” she said, slipping gently out of the bed, wincing a little. She faltered a little as she tried to put weight on her leg and both men reached out to steady her.

“Just so you know,” Ramon said quickly, “You have fifty stitches around your midsection, twenty-seven in your leg, and ten in your arm.”

“My arm?” she asked in surprise.

“When I was trying to pull you away from it I tore the knife wound on your arm back open again. I’m sorry.”

“Trying to save my life, or whatever this is, versus a cut. Think I’ll forgive you this once.” She smiled at him.

Snow opened the door for her and she followed him out, limping, with Ramon on her heels. She was surprised to see they were still at Lexington Hills. The other room had seemed like a legitimate hospital, not a derelict building. She turned, looking back in the room curiously.

“It was a room as I remember them,” Ramon explained, knowing what she was confused about. She nodded and smiled, and looked back to Snow.

“Hands please?” her partner asked. “I’ll be taking us there, so just close your eyes and focus on me.”

“Be safe,” Ramon called as they disappeared from the hospital.

They appeared in the parking lot of Aiden’s apartment building. The first strains of sunlight were filtering through the gloom of night, and Aiden’s van was parked out front. Snow led the way into the apartment building, up the stairs and then through the door of Aiden’s apartment. Cadence limped along, amazed that, as a ghost, it could hurt so much.

The living room was dark as all of the techie toys were turned off, or with screen savers. Snow led Cadence around to the couch. “Sit.” She opened her mouth to argue but he held up a hand, cutting her off. “No, you were badly injured tonight. You will sit and rest. I will do the pacing this time.”

Cadence chuckled then winced because even that hurt. She shook her head, taking a seat. “God, I was still so angry last time we were here.”

“I was relaxed and watching you pace. This time, we’ve switched roles.”

That caught Cadence off guard. “What are you angry about?”

“I almost lost a partner tonight. What do you think I’m angry about?”

“It does seem to be a habit of mine doesn’t it? Dying on my partners.”

“Dying on Andrew was one thing, you were mortal.”

“I honestly thought it was going to go after Lauren and Derrick. I mean, if life energy attracts it, why would it go after me when it had two fully alive people right there? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“No, you don’t get it, Cadence,” he said as he stopped pacing for a moment and bent over the arm of the sofa, bracing himself with both hands. “I should have known. It can’t get nearly as much energy off of a human as it can get from a fresh ghost. It would have to whip them up into a frenzy of panic to get half the energy it can draw from you. I should have known that it would go for you.”

“It surprised all of us there. None of us expected it to already be in the basement. Hell, it was only a minute or so between us figuring out that it was Dan who had summoned it and the damned thing appearing. We had no warning at all. It wasn’t like before when it came and we heard it coming. We got caught flat-footed. It won’t happen again since we know a little better now what to expect. And I’m fine, I’m still here, right? Any day you wake up is a good one. That’s what my father used to say.”

Snow paused from his pacing and anger at himself to look over at her. “I suppose your right. I just… I’m the experienced one out of the two of us. I feel like an incredible fool for not having seen it coming.”

“Experienced does not mean clairvoyant,” she said. “You even said before that you’ve only dealt with non-human things a handful of times. That’s not exactly a lot. Not enough to expect you to have a playbook of how they operate. We can micro-examine this all we want, Osmond. We can both go and turn this into our own fault. But the fact of the matter is it really wasn’t anyone’s fault except Dan’s. He’s the one that summoned the damned thing in the first place.”

Snow opened his mouth to reply but stopped as the door to the bedroom opened and Aiden came out wearing jeans and little else. A towel was hanging around his neck, his hair was wet, and he smelled like he just got out of the shower. He grumbled something under his breath and walked over to his computer desk, hitting the power button forcefully before continuing to his coffeemaker.

“He’s up early,” Snow said as he looked out the window to see the colors of sunrise still painting the sky.

“Probably couldn’t sleep.” Cadence shrugged, then winced as she felt the pull on her mid-section. “I’d get like that after a rough case sometimes.” Their discussion was interrupted by the shrill ringing of Aiden’s cell phone which was by his computer. He left the kitchen and grabbed it.

“Hey Lauren,” he answered. “Nah, don’t worry about it, I couldn’t sleep anyhow. What’s up?” He paused as she spoke on the other end. “I don’t know, I have no idea why he just took off like that, he was weird all night. I do know I’m not exactly thrilled about it. Not just leaving equipment behind, but leaving you and Derrick too.” He paused once more and they could hear Lauren’s voice coming over the phone line, but they couldn’t make out the words she was saying. “Don’t worry about it. I got the recorder and camera alright. Both of them were still recording. I can’t wait to see what wigged you guys out so bad.”

Snow and Cadence exchanged looks. Cade thought she had drained the battery of Dan’s camcorder and that it wouldn’t have recorded. Maybe it hadn’t gotten anything; she consoled herself. Maybe they would be lucky. She wasn’t so sure, because nothing about this case had been lucky since the shadow creature had been summoned.

She frowned as Aiden continued his conversation. “I’ll go over it all and let you know if I find anything like what you guys say you saw… no, it’s not that I don’t believe you, but you know what these things are like, you don’t always catch on film or tape what you see and hear. That’s why they call them personal experiences rather than evidence.”

“Do you think he could be one of the cultists?” Cadence asked as Aiden talked on the phone.

“It is possible I suppose, but he is very tall. He’s well over six feet and I don’t recall any of the five hooded figures striking me as being quite that tall,” Snow replied.

“Me either.” Cadence sighed. “It would have been nice and neat to peg all the paranormal group as the cultists.”

“Too neat,” Snow said as he shook his head. “Not really possible either. They have a female in their ranks and it was obvious that the cultists were all male. Not to mention that there are only four in the hunter group and there were five cultists.”

Cadence shrugged. “They could have left Lauren out and brought in two more guys but I think you’re right. I think Dan was the only one in on it. Derrick is too young and seems to get a little too freaked out when something weird happens. Aiden seems to be the one interested in the science behind all of this. I really don’t peg any of them as cultists.”

Aiden hung up the phone and set it back down on his desk with a sigh. “What are you up to Dan?” he asked. He groaned and stretched as he rubbed his eyes. He went to the kitchen and got himself a cup of coffee and then sat down at his computer. He reached over and grabbed the case of voice recorders. He singled out the one that had been Laurens and plugged it into his computer.

“Time to see if you’ve got anything for me,” he said to the recorder as he hooked it up.

“Going right for the heart this time,” Snow noted. Cadence rose, wincing a bit, and made her way over to where Snow now stood behind Aiden. The tape started out normally enough, recording the fruitless EVP session that the hunters had done in the kitchen, looking for the ghost of Maggie, who would never be there again. Then it went to Dan trying to jimmy the lock with his knife. Everything was nice and normal until Dan cut his thumb as the lock gave way, and the knife sliced his thumb, the door swinging open a little.

“What the hell?” Aiden grumbled, turning up the volume a bit. There was the sound of the wind and just a bunch of other nonsensical noise.

“The noise of the shadow creature,” Cadence said.

“Cade!” they heard the tinny sound of Ramon’s voice on the tape, muffled a bit as most spirit voices were. Both officers looked stricken as the tape played.

“Drain their batteries,” Snow’s voice clearly said. Aiden’s mouth dropped open as he listened, forgetting to note down times and mark the recordings.

“My camera just went dead,” Derrick said.

“Mine too.” It was Lauren’s voice.

“Run!” Dan could be heard yelling to the others. “Get out of here, run!” The background noise of the room had increased on the tape. It wasn’t as bad as it was when they were there, in front of the creature, but it still sounded like a freight train.

“What the hell is wrong with him?” Derrick could be heard asking, then came the sound of the door being forcibly ripped from its hinges, followed by another bang a few moments later as it was thrown and hit the stove. A clattering sound was heard, presumably when Lauren dropped her voice recorder, and then footsteps could be heard as they ghost hunters high-tailed it out of there.

The tape recorder had survived the fall, and it caught the unearthly howl of the creature as it went for Cadence. Her voice was heard as she cried out in pain.

“Teleport!” Snow yelled in the recording.

“I can’t!” Came her recorded reply, the voice strained. All the while the cacophony of the shadow creature’s presence could be heard, as well as occasional noises of pain from Cadence, or the effort from Ramon and Snow as they tried to pull Cadence free.

“Use the energy you took from the battery, make a weapon!” Snow’s voice was heard, very clearly.

“Pull from me too,” Ramon’s quieter voice said. Cadence shivered slightly as she stood next to Snow, behind the stunned Aiden. Reliving all of it, was eerie. For a moment or two, all that could be heard on the tape was the noise of the creature and Snow’s fruitless efforts to distract it. Then an angry and pained scream came through the tape which gave all three of its listeners, living and dead, the chills. The noise of the creature’s presence faded as it made its escape, and several minutes later Aiden could be heard coming into the room and picking up the recorder before shutting it off.

“Oh shit,” Cadence said. “We’re in trouble.”

“Yes.” Snow agreed quietly. “We are.”

Aiden sat there for a moment, looking at the recorder as if he expected it to jump to life. He was stunned. So many intelligent “Class A” EVP’s, detailing apparently three ghosts fighting off some other thing. Was it an evil creature or demon maybe? Whatever it was, it must have been what had scared the others.

“No fucking way,” the techie said at length. He jumped up suddenly and sprinted across to the box that held the camcorders. He went through until he found Dan’s and he quickly pulled the memory stick from it, moving it to his video editing computer. He hit the power to turn that one on and moved over to his computer desk to grab his coffee.

“Are we going to be on film, Snow?” Cadence asked with trepidation heavy in her voice.

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “With as much energy as we had surging through us at the time? It’s very possible.”

“Fuck,” she said.

“Indeed.” Snow nodded in solemn agreement with her.

“Come on, come on.” Aiden coaxed the computer as it booted up. Once it was up and running, he set everything up to play. He fast forwarded past them walking into the dining hall and through the evidence-less EVP session. Once they got into the kitchen and Dan knelt down with his knife to work on the lock he hit play.

The door swung open as Dan nursed his sliced thumb. Aiden hit pause a few moments after, his hands shaking. On the camcorder not only could he see the black shadow form emerging from the basement stairwell, but he could hear the EVPs that Lauren’s digital recorder had caught as well. Ramon yelling Cade’s name in warning as the creature came up. Not only that, but he could see that Dan was staring straight at the thing with both a look of fear and recognition on his face.

“Son of a bitch, he knew it was there,” Aiden said. “He could see it, and left the rest of us to deal with it. Left Lauren and Derrick alone with it.” He frowned and sat there staring at the frozen image for a moment more, anger in him building, and then he hit play. He watched as the creature reached over, looking something like a shadowy octopus with its tentacles, and managed to pull the door to the basement from its hinges and throw it. The door went sailing over Lauren and Derrick’s heads to land with a crash on the opposite side. Cadence realized that she hadn’t done as good a job of draining the camera battery as she had hoped. It kept recording.

“I guess I haven’t gotten much better at manipulating electronics,” she said with an apologetic look to Snow.

A flash of an image of her was seen as the shadow creature grabbed her leg. The sounds of the struggle were captured on the camcorder just as they had been on the voice recorder, just as clear. Aiden watched in amazement as the shadow creature sent out another tentacle to wrap around Cadence, and she could be seen, a pale, translucent, silvery image, as if looking at a person through a fog. Brief flashes of both Snow and Ramon could be seen as well, as they fought to free her, and items began flying as Snow picked them up and threw them at the creature.

After Snow had told her to make a weapon, a small sliver of light could be seen in her hand, which grew brighter and sharper, like a large needle of light. The needle slashed at the shadow tentacles, cutting them away and they fell, dissolving to ash, or so it seemed. Then the needle was thrown and it pierced the middle of the mass of shadows. The visions of the three ghosts faded and the shadow creature shuddered and screamed, then turned, the blade of light still embedded in him, and escaped out the back door of the kitchen.

“Snow what are we going to do?” Cadence asked, as Aiden numbly reached out to hit the stop button, trying to give himself time to digest what he had just seen.

“I’m not sure.”

“Not helpful,” Cadence said. She attempted to pace, but ended up just limping back and forth. “We have to do something, Snow. We can’t let him keep that evidence. I know you said some was okay, but those were practically Polaroid perfect shots of us.”

“Well we can’t very well lift it from the apartment either now, can we?” Snow replied.

“Don’t suppose we can plead reason with him, huh?”

“You see what he is like after seeing five minutes of footage of ghosts. I don’t think he would take very well to us suddenly appearing and flashing badges to confiscate the evidence.”

“I think I need sleep,” Aiden said hollowly, not realizing that he had an audience. “Sleep would be good.”

Snow and Cadence followed him into his bedroom as he went to lie down. “Snow, we have to do something.”

“What do you propose, Cadence?” Snow asked. “Because right now all I can see is trouble, no matter what we do”

“What about dreams?” she ventured.

“What about them?”

“Well, maybe we don’t materialize in his living room. Maybe you go in and talk some sense to him, explain why he can’t go public with the evidence he has at all, to anyone, ever. Maybe we can get his help with the shadow creature now. Maybe he can talk to Dan and see if he knows how to unsummon this damned thing. The body count, metaphorically speaking, is now up to three. That we know of,” she said as she put emphasis on the last sentence. “We’ve lost Maggie, Carl, and Agent Banks. We have to stop it. This could be a golden opportunity to get some help in accomplishing that goal.”

Snow paced, lips pursed, arms folded. “If we do this,” he said, and he stressed the ‘if’. “You’re going in, not me. You’ll do better communicating I think. You’re far more fluent in the modern American way of speaking.”

Cadence nodded, limping over to the bed, her leg hurting. “Alright, fine.” To be honest, she was a little grateful for the chance to sit down.

“Are you sure he will be willing? This is an awful lot to ask from the poor fellow. Those tapes out there are tantamount to handing him the keys to his future. You’ll be asking him to voluntarily give up those keys.”

“What if we offer to work with him in the future?”

“What?” Snow gawked.

“Police forces have their advisors and specialists they call in for help on subjects. We could be that for each other.”

“I have a feeling Alistair might frown on us having an advisory relationship with a ghost hunter, Cadence. I have a feeling that something like that is concretely against the rules.”

“Who says he has to know. Besides, Croft is not the end-all-be-all. You know that right?”

Snow bristled at the slight against Croft.

“I’m sorry, Osmond. I know you have this hero worship thing going for him and I get it, I really do. But what he approves of or disapproves of isn’t my problem. Getting the job done is. And right now my job is to protect both the residents of Lexington Hills and the breathers who go in there from that damned shadow thing that Dan summoned. If some kind of working relationship with a single ghost hunter can help me accomplish this so no more bodies pile up, I’m all for it.”

Snow frowned. He wanted to argue with her, knowing how very against the rules this idea was, but he could also see the reason behind what she was saying. He wanted to get this creature gone as much as she did and the fact that she was almost its fourth victim did not sit well with him. Then there was also the fact that if those tapes came out, it would cause even more trouble. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll get you into his dream once he is dreaming.”

“Thank you,” she smiled.

“Once you are in there you can create a space, you know. Make the area look like how you want to present it to him. Unless he is a conscious dreamer and can control his own dream space, but those people are rare.”

“One of these days you are going to have to teach me how to do this on my own, you know.”

“I know,” he said. “But I can’t teach you all of my tricks all at once.”

They didn’t have long to wait, as Aiden was very tired. Once Aiden was dreaming Cadence took his hand and Snow’s, and then closed her eyes.

Cadence found herself in a bar and saw Aiden’s tall, lanky form in a corner, having a drink. “Interesting choice,” she murmured to herself. She saw no reason to try to wrest control of the setting from the dreamer, at least not yet, and so she simply moved to the corner booth that he occupied.

“Evening, handsome.” She smiled at him. For the moment she figured she would try to blend in with his dream. At least, until he recognized her or she figured out a way to delve into the reason why she was there. He looked up from his beer and blinked, not expecting to be interrupted.

“Evening,” he replied after a moment. “Care to join me?”

“Sure,” she answered and she eased herself into the seat across from him. He signaled the bartender for another beer for her. “Thanks,” she said. She cocked her head to one side, looking at him. “Are you alright?”

“I’ve had better days,” he said.

“Care to talk about it?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“You might be surprised,” she said. She started to pull the random patrons from the bar, making them leave to give them more apparent privacy.

He looked at her closely for a moment. “Holy shit,” he said. “You’re the ghost! The female ghost the shadow thing was grabbing.”

“Recognize my face huh?” she asked. She was trying to keep a calm demeanor in order to keep him calm.

“Not easy to forget the first ghost you see.”

“I’m the first ghost you’ve ever seen? Really?”

“The first full on ghost, yeah. Not one of those things where I kind-of-sort-of see an outline of a face or a body.”

“Well, then I guess I’m honored.”

“Who are you?” he asked, looking at her in awe.

“Cade. You can call me Cade.”

“That’s what the guy in the recording called you. You have more of a name than that?”

“I do,” she replied hesitantly, “but no offense, I think we should just leave it at Cade for now. You go looking for who I was and it might open wounds for people I care about that are still trying to heal.”

“Were you a patient or worker at Lexington?” he asked. He seemed to take this all in stride a little bit better asleep than he had while awake.

“No,” she replied, not going further into an explanation unless he questioned her. And she was really hoping he wouldn’t.

He nodded then apparently something occurred to him. “That thing grabbed you, did it hurt you?”

“Yeah, it did. But I’m okay. Others aren’t, however.”

“The two guys with you?” he prompted.

“No, they’re fine. All three of us made it out of there and away from that creature safely.”

“What was that thing?”

Finally, the question she had been both anticipating and dreading. “It’s what we call a non-human shadow creature. It was summoned to Lexington Hills a little over a week ago.”

“The circle, the blood,” he replied as he put two and two together.

“Exactly,” she said. “Some cultists came in and summoned it. I guess they weren’t expecting their ritual to pay off because they panicked and ran, but in doing so, they set it free.”

“So now it is haunting the hospital?”

“It comes back to the hospital from time to time, but no, it isn’t haunting there. It mostly seems to be haunting the ones that summoned it.” Cadence looked at Aiden, meeting his brown eyes with her green, wondering if he would make the leap.

“Dan,” he said after a moment.

Cadence nodded. “So far all of the evidence points to Dan being the leader of the cult, yes.”

“Son of a bitch, I knew he looked guilty as hell.” By now Cadence had gotten everyone out of the dream bar and the two of them were alone. He frowned, looking down into his beer for a moment. “So where are your friends?”

“I’m sorry?” she asked, confused by his sudden change of subject.

“Well, I figure I’m dreaming. And I figure you’re only here because I just saw you on that tape. I figured my subconscious would drag your friends from the tape in as well. Or maybe that shadow monster. I’m kind of really hoping the latter doesn’t make a cameo.”

“Trust me, you don’t want that thing in your dreams,” Cadence replied. “And while yes you are dreaming, I’m really here in your dream. I’m not a subconscious figment of your imagination.”

“Don’t suppose there’s a way for you to prove that?” he asked.

Cadence frowned, thinking about it. “Maybe. But if I do give you a way to look up information about me and you realize that I am really here, that we’ve really had this conversation, I need you to do something for me.”

“What?”

“I need your help in fighting against that thing, Aiden. Talk to Dan and see if he knows a way to destroy it. Or help us get some of the more physical components we’ll need to take care of it. That way Lexington Hills is safe for you to investigate, and for the haunting spirits there. Also…” She paused, knowing this would be the hardest part. “You’ll have to bury the evidence that is on those tapes in your living room.”

He pressed his lips together in a narrow line as he thought about it. “Don’t ask for much, do you? With that evidence, I could practically write my own ticket in the paranormal field.”

“I know… I know it’s a lot to ask. But we can help each other out here Aiden. We can help you, as much as it is in our power to help you, with your investigations.”

He frowned then shifted, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket. He tapped it on the table as he thought. “If I do this… if I check out whatever it is you are going to tell me to verify that I am not having a mental breakdown over this and if I agree to help you and your friends in getting rid of that thing. If I agree to bury the evidence, we got last night when that thing attacked… I want a favor in return.” He pulled a picture out of the wallet. A very pretty young woman with long blonde hair stood against a stone half wall with a garden behind her. “That’s Bethany,” he said, his voice gruff. “She died a year ago. I want to talk to her one last time.”

“Aiden,” she said, “I’m not sure it’s in my power to arrange that.”

“That’s what I thought you’d say,” he replied, emotion still strong in his voice as he moved to put the picture away.

Cadence sighed, thinking. “I’ll see what I can do. I can’t make any promises, but I will look into it.” He looked at her in surprise, then smiled sadly and nodded his thanks. “As for me,” she continued, “I would prefer you do all of this research on the computer and not call anyone. My name is Cadence Riley. I was with the 22nd precinct downtown. My partner was Andy Halleran. I lived in the Windmere building off of West Monroe. I died almost month ago in the line of duty, in the arrest of Scott Sage.”

“The Somerset Strangler?”

“Yes, the Somerset Strangler. My brother Sam Riley died nine years ago in the university massacre. He was a freshman and was majoring in Education. He died trying to protect his girlfriend, Eri Takahashi. They were both found in one of the bathrooms of the dorm. Is that enough for you to Google?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he nodded. “There’s no way I could know all that stuff to plug it into a dream. Right?”

“I don’t think so. So, you can research all of that, bury those tapes, and try to find a way to see if Dan knows how to get rid of what he conjured. I’ll work on finding Bethany for you. What’s her last name?”

“Saxon.”

“Bethany Saxon, got it.”

“How do I get in touch with you anyway?” he asked.

Cadence paused and thought about that for a moment. She didn’t think that her spirit phone would take mundane phone calls. So she offered him the best way to get in touch with her that she could think of, off the top of her head. “Go to Lexington Hills. Just go into the lobby and wait a minute. Then say “Ramon, tell Cade I believe.” He’ll get the message to me.”

“Who is Ramon?”

“He’s a ghost at Lexington Hills. He knows how to get in touch with me.”

“Was he one of the ones helping you with the shadow thing?”

“Yes.”

“Was he the one with the English accent or the other one?”

“The other one,” she replied, hoping that she was doing the right thing in giving Aiden this information. “The English guy is my partner.”

“You have a partner?”

“You don’t stop being a cop just because you’re dead,” she said with a smile.

“I thought you stopped being everything when you were dead,” he said.

“No. You don’t believe that. If you did you wouldn’t be in a paranormal group trying to find proof of life after death.”

“I guess you’re right,” he said as he conceded her point. “I don’t suppose you want to let me in on the secret of life after death, do you?”

“I can’t. Trade secret, sorry,” she said.

“It’s okay,” he said with a slight smile. “I didn’t really expect you to be able to tell me anything.”

“Maybe one day I can. In the mean-time, I’ll see what I can find out about getting Bethany in contact with you. I’ll be waiting to hear from Ramon. Then I’ll come back and talk to you again.”

“In my dreams? You can’t just show up and talk to me, like EVP or something?”

“Believe it or not, this is easier.”

“I’ll take your word for it. I guess I’ll talk to you again.” She nodded and followed the tether she felt back to Snow and out of Aiden’s dream.

“Come on,” Snow said grimly as she opened her eyes. “We still have work to do.”

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