Waking Up Dead

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Chapter 12

The office was mercifully quiet with their door shut. Cadence cradled her head in her hands. “God, I have such a headache.”

Snow didn’t even look up from his paperwork as he answered her. “Let’s see, you pulled energy from a battery, got attacked, had energy pushed into you from another ghost, got quite a few stitches because you were so badly torn up, then went dream walking for a while. I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t feel at the top of your game.”

“Ooh, nice sarcasm there, Ozzie. Didn’t think you had it in you,” she said. She looked up and gave him a weary grin.

“Sarcasm? Damn, I was trying for dry wit. I must be spending too much time with you; you’re rubbing off on me,” he said. He smiled at her, but he looked as tired as she felt.

Cadence shot him a sweet grin in reply. Snow had pulled what looked like a laptop computer out of one of his drawers and had that computer running a search for records of a Bethany Saxon. “Any luck yet?” Cade asked.

“You asked that just a few minutes ago,” he said.

“And now I’m asking again.”

“You’re like a child asking ’Are we there yet?’ every few minutes. You’ll know when I’ve found something; I assure you.” She frowned at his snapping but didn’t reply. Given the night they had both had, he had earned the right to be cranky.

A knock sounded on their door, and Osmond quietly closed the laptop. “Enter,” he called as Cadence lowered her hands to appear less ill and more professional.

Agent Whitfield entered the office and closed the door behind him. His brow furrowed when he saw Cadence. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“Just peachy,” she replied sourly. “Why?”

“You don’t look well, that’s all. Sorry,” he replied as he fidgeted with his hands. “I found some intel on the summoning circle for you. Agent Banks was right. We saw to it that this ritual, or recipe as you called it, was removed from the breathers. It’s too dangerous and the creatures it created were far too unpredictable and harmful.”

“Oh joy, more good news,” Cadence said.

“Ignore her,” Snow said as Agent Whitfield looked distressed at her reaction. “She’s had a bad night.”

“Oh… well… Sorry to hear it. Um, the good news is that it can be undone. The bad news is that it is really hard to undo it.”

“But not impossible then? Well that’s good news,” Snow remarked. Agent Whitfield fidgeted again, looking unsure. “It isn’t impossible, right?” Snow urged.

“Well, the thing is, it was summoned by a breather. But this particular ritual has to be undone by a combined effort from both breathers and spirits in tandem. That, as I’m sure you know, is something that’s forbidden.”

“How do they do that?” Cadence asked and shifted in her chair, wincing as the motion pulled on sore areas. She hissed slightly as the sting grew more intense but was determined to do her best to focus on the subject at hand. “How do breathers and ghosts work together to get this thing gone?”

“Well, they have to do it at the sight of the original circle. Retrace the original runes then draw runes with the opposite meanings as a mirror image of the original runes. Like, if you stand on the outside of the circle, you can read the runes properly, right? These would be readable if you are standing on the inside of the circle. The runes are done in chalk, and you need candles, white candles, where the other candles were. Not exactly something we can do, the chalk and candles part. But then here’s where it gets tricky. Where it used blood to seal the circle for the summoning, you have to use our energy, or our blood, to seal it for this ritual. Neither side of the coin can undo this thing without the other. That’s why it was banned.”

“And there is no evidence of this ritual being written down in a book or diary somewhere?” Cadence asked.

“No, nowhere,” Whitfield answered. “I’d be curious to know how they got hold of this. This was verified as being removed from breather hands in 1762. We started purging it in 1714. Um… you… you’re bleeding Ma’am.”

“What?” Cadence looked down and sure enough, she apparently had pulled something, as silvery blood was beginning to blossom on her shirt. “Ah, shit.”

Snow jumped to his feet as she rose herself to slip out of her blazer and she unbuttoned the bottom portion of her shirt. The bandage Ramon had wrapped around her midsection was slowly becoming quite grey.

“What happened?” Whitfield asked as Snow pulled down the bandage a bit to see how bad it was. The NHD Agent turned away as he caught sight of the wound.

“The creature tried to make a snack out of me,” Cadence replied. She looked decidedly at the ceiling while Snow inspected her wound.

“It bit you!?” He practically squeaked.

“Yeah.”

“You’re lucky to still be here!”

“Tell me about it.”

“Look, Agent Whitfield, who do we have to speak with to get you assigned to help us with the research on this?” Snow asked. He used care as he settled Cadence’s bandage back in place. “As you can see, we need the assistance.”

“I don’t know that they will let me come down, I mean, after what happened with Banks,” he said.

“Whitfield we can’t do this without you. Who do I have to beg?” Cade asked. “That is, after I stop bleeding, of course.” Snow grabbed her jacket.

“I’ll talk to my boss. Tell him what this involves. I’m sure, once they know about the ritual, it will be a priority.”

“Go then,” Snow said. He began to gesture both Whitfield and Cadence to the door. “We’ll be back soon. Just need to get her taken care of.”

“Sure, sure,” Whitfield said while nodding. He reminded Cadence of a nervous bobble head. He went off back to his office, and Snow and Cadence headed to their hall of doors, avoiding the alarmed looks of some of the ladies working in the observation bay.

It wasn’t long before they stepped into the lobby of Lexington Hills. “I think I have now spent more time here than at my apartment,” Cadence commented as she looked around.

It never took long for Ramon to appear. “I didn’t expect to see you so soon…” he said, trailing off as she lowered her jacket, which she had folded over her arm in an attempt to hide the bleeding as they had gone through the office. His eyes widened. “You have to be more careful.” He held out a hand to her as he gently scolded her. He led her over to the steps. “Sit, I’ll be right back.”

Snow helped ease her down on the bottom step. “Yes, please do be more careful. This is nothing to play with.”

“Yeah, trust me, it doesn’t feel too pleasant,” she assured him.

“It doesn’t look like it does,” Snow commented. Ramon reappeared with more gauze and his med kit.

“I apologize in advance,” Cadence said as she looked between the two of them. “I’m a pain in the ass patient. Always have been”

“And this would be different than any other time how?” Snow asked with a smile. Ramon chuckled and took the bandage off. Cadence closed her eyes in an outright refusal to look.

“Are you serious?” Snow asked in mock indignation, thinking that teasing her might be a good way to get her mind off of it. “An inspector who hates the sight of blood?”

“Cop,” she corrected him, holding tight to the American title to be obstinate. “Besides, it’s only the sight of my own blood I hate. It’s less about the blood and more about the deep puncture wounds and stitches. I figured I might be less of a bad patient if I closed my eyes and pretended I was in Barbados or something.” She felt the needle slide into her, replacing the stitches. “Oh God, so much for that.”

Cadence spent the next few minutes with her eyes closed and her arm held by Snow to keep it out of the way. She tried hard to play it tough, but an occasional whimper of pain escaped her. “This sucks,” she said at length.

“I’m almost done.” Ramon reassured her, his voice smooth. “But I’m tempted to put you in a full body cast just to be sure that you stay still.”

“I promise not to move around too much, I swear,” she replied.

Ramon finished and pulled her shirt back down, having been careful to reveal only the skin he needed in order to help her. “Good. Otherwise I’ll have to start charging you.” He grinned a bit at her as he joked, trying to cheer her up.

Cadence’s response was cut off by the front door to the hospital opening. Late afternoon sunlight could be seen outside in the overgrown yard. The shadow of a tall, lanky man stood in the door for a moment before moving inside and revealing itself as Aiden.

“Oh good, his research went faster than ours I guess,” Cadence said as Snow helped ease her up into a sitting position.

“Uh, hey, Ramon,” Aiden said hesitantly. He felt a bit foolish to be standing in the middle of the empty and abandoned building, talking to himself. “Tell Cadence Riley I believe. Please.” He looked around uncertainly then shrugged and turned around, heading out the door and closing it behind him.

“Why does the ghost hunter know my name?” Ramon asked, decidedly unhappy about that little development.

Cadence and Snow exchanged a look and Cade started to shrug, but stopped herself, not wanting to pull anything more. “I told him.”

“You talked to him?” Ramon asked incredulously.

“It was necessary, Ramon,” Snow assured him. “The group left not only a voice recorder but a video camera in the kitchen. Both devices caught everything. The three of us were expending so much energy during that fight that all three of us were both audible and visible. As was the shadow creature. We had to talk to him to convince him to bury the evidence.”

“And he agreed?”

“Apparently,” Cadence answered as she gestured to the closed front door. “That was the message he was supposed to deliver to you, letting me know that he was going to do it.”

“And what are you doing for him?”

“Looking up someone he knew,” Cadence replied and was a bit curious to see how Ramon seemed to relax a little bit at that.

“We should get back to that, actually. And to Whitfield,” Snow said.

Cadence nodded and the two men helped her to her feet. Ramon took both her hands and looked into her eyes. “Please be careful. I like seeing you, but I don’t like seeing you hurt.”

She didn’t quite know how to respond to the expression in his eyes as he spoke. Her brow furrowed for a moment but she nodded, squeezing his hands lightly with hers before letting go. “I’ll be careful. I promise.”

Snow led her back through the hall of doors and looked at her for a moment once he had the door to Lexington Hills closed.

“What?” she asked.

“You’re going to have to address that soon, you know?”

“Address what?”

“Ramon.”

“Oh… yeah. When exactly did that happen anyway?”

“I would wager right around the time that you were willing to sacrifice yourself for the safety of the inhabitants at Lexington. I think his general admiration started long ago, however.”

“Long ago?” she asked as they slowly made their way back to the office. Neither of them was in any hurry to see how much abuse her newest stitches would take. “I’ve only been dead a month. How long ago could it have started?”

Snow stopped at the door from the hall back out into the observation bay. “The first night we reported to Lexington Mr. Suarez confessed to me that he knew you.” He held a hand up to stop her as she opened her mouth to speak. “Not personally of course. Not in a way that you would have known him. He said that you and some friends had come into the asylum when you were a teenager. You didn’t stay long, as he managed to scare off you and your friends. But he remembered you.”

Cadence stood there, her mind working as she tried to figure this out. “So of all the people he has seen over the years he remembered me?”

“It would seem so,” Snow said.

“How? I mean I know he’s a ghost so his social life isn’t exactly full of new and exciting people. But how on earth does he remember me when I was sixteen and how is he able to look at me now and know that it was me?” Have you ever heard of this kind of thing happening?”

“What kind of thing?”

“A ghost having feelings for another ghost?”

“Of course! Cadence just because you don’t have a physical form doesn’t mean you stop having emotions. I would have thought you would have learned that over the last month. Now, you might want to fix your shirt before you give the observation bay a collective heart attack.”

“Right.” She nodded and closed her eyes as she imagined a fresh, clean shirt on her instead of the stained one. The blood stain vanished. Snow nodded and took her arm then the two of them made their way back to the office.

Something gleamed on Cadence’s desk, catching the light as they walked back in. The two of them exchanged a look, and Snow shrugged. He sat down at his desk and went back to his laptop as Cadence circled to her desk. There on her desk was the dagger that Agent Banks had loaned her. She smiled and picked it up, turning it over in her hands. She felt better having it with her. She noticed a note on her desk as well.

“Looks like you need this more than the closet does. Whitfield.”

“Hey, the kid came through!”

“Oh?” Snow asked then looked up. “Lovely. Now if he can just come up with the rest of the information on how to get rid of the creature that tried to make a meal out of my partner, I’d feel much better.”

“Sourpuss,” Cadence said and sat back down. Their office door opened and Cadence quickly hid the blade in her desk drawer. Alistair Croft entered, closing the door behind him.

“Osmond,” he said gravely, “what is this I hear about you needing a research agent from NHD?”

“He came up with the information that’s pertinent to solving this problem and taking care of the shadow creature. We won’t need him for long, just a day or two.”

“And I heard your partner was injured?” he asked. He gestured to Cadence, but was speaking as if she wasn’t in the room, which irked her a little.

“I’m fine,” she replied, which got absolutely no response from Croft, irking her even more. She frowned and glanced to Snow, but he was too busy focusing on his former mentor.

“I think perhaps you were right in your initial reaction to this case. I think this is getting too dangerous for you two. I’ll designate a new area for you. You’re out of this one.”

Snow was on his feet in an instant. “What? No, we have this one almost solved. You’ve got to give us just a few more days.”

Croft held up his hand to stop Snow. “It’s done. You’ll have no need of the NHD Agent and no need to get your partner injured.”

“Excuse me but weren’t you the one who was all over him to let me be part of this case? You can’t just take us off of it.”

“I can do as I please, young lady. You may be new but never forget I am your superior.”

“The hell you are,” she retorted.

“Cadence!” Snow exclaimed.

“No. You aren’t superior to me in any way. If by that term you mean my boss, a good captain knows when to listen to his officers. We have this in the bag we just need the time to see it through.”

Croft’s face was darkened with anger and he looked between the two of them then shook his head. “Desks. Until you can teach your new protégé how to control herself, you’ll be confined to desk duty. This is a shame, Snow. I expected more from you.” He turned and left.

Snow sank down into his chair, stunned.

“Snow, I…” She stopped when he held up a hand.

“I need a few moments. Excuse me.” Snow rose and left the office.

Cadence sighed as the door closed. She hadn’t meant to get Snow in trouble with Croft; she really hadn’t. She just couldn’t stand the way he had come in to their office and started talking. Were things going perfectly? No. But that was no cause for Croft to come in here throwing his weight around, treating Snow like an errant child and Cadence like she wasn’t there at all.

She grumbled and got up carefully, moving around to Snow’s desk to continue the search for Bethany Saxon. Aiden had come through on his end, and she wasn’t about to just give up on trying to come through on hers. The computer had finished its search, and the results were displayed on the screen. She sat down and looked at it, beginning to scroll through names. Apparently there were a lot of people with the last name of Saxon. She found three instances of a Bethany Saxon, but only one had a death date of a year ago. The data section had designations and location, but none of it meant anything to her. She needed Snow.

She leaned back in his chair with a disgusted sigh. Things were not going well today. They had found their cultist, and Whitfield had a good idea of how to dismantle the summoning. However, Croft had then come in, taken them from the case, their area, and rendered them useless. But why? Was he just trying to be protective of his old protégé? Was he protective of her? She didn’t get it. Why would he have been so supportive of them being on the case in the beginning? Snow had wanted nothing but to take her off the case since she was too new to handle a non-human creature. Then to only turn around and take them off the case when they had started doing so well?

She grunted in frustration and rose, albeit carefully, from Snow’s desk. She began to pace the office back and forth, limping badly as she went, eyes going over the pictures of the runes. This reversal ritual could be done; it just took both sides working together to do it. Maybe that’s the real reason why it had been taken out of breather circulation. It took too much trust on both sides to put the genie back into the bottle.

They knew about the runes, but not what specific runes were required for the ritual to destroy the creature. They knew how to close the circle and what color the candles needed to be, but not what words if any would be needed, or any other specifics for the ritual. She frowned and began pulling the pinned up notes down since apparently they weren’t going to need them anymore.

A knock on the door made her pause, and she debated not answering, since she wasn’t sure she wanted to see how much worse this night was going to get. Finally, she relented when the knock sounded a second time. “Come in,” she said.

Agent Whitfield peeked in the door. “Feeling better?” he asked as he entered, closing the door behind him.

“Depends,” she said as she moved back to her chair. “But I’m not bleeding anymore so that’s likely a plus.”

“Yes, it is. Um, is Officer Snow not here? I had wanted to go over this ritual with you guys.”

Cadence was about to tell him not to bother when she stopped. “You got more information on it?”

“Yeah, I explained to my supervisor what you guys were dealing with and he agreed that I should help you guys out with the research. This thing is dangerous, we need to get it contained or undone fast.”

“You got permission to come work with us?” she asked, not quite believing what she was hearing.

“Yeah,” he replied, brow furrowing. “I thought that was what you wanted.”

“It is. It is. We just didn’t think it was going to happen.” Her mind was moving a mile a minute. Croft was taking them out of their area and off their case when NHD had apparently already agreed to let Whitfield work with them? It didn’t make sense. “Let me call Snow back in here.”

She pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed Snow. To her amazement, he picked up. “Snow you need to get back here.”

“Cadence, I’m sorry, there’s no need —” he said, but was cut off.

“Agent Whitfield got permission to work with us from his bosses. He’s here to go over what we need to know. Two brains are better than one on this, Ozzie.”

There was silence as he considered it, and she hoped to hell he picked up on the same oddities of the situation that she had. Finally, he said, “I’ll be right there.” He then hung up. She smiled. Obviously, something had clicked for him too. She pocketed her phone and gestured for Whitfield to take a seat.

“You’re doing better then?” he asked as he took the chair in the corner of the office, indicating her midsection. She nodded. “I can’t believe it touched you and you survived!”

“It grabbed me in two places,” she said. “Wrapped around my middle like you saw, but it got a hold of my leg first.”

“And you’re walking?”

Cadence shrugged. “Walking might be generous, limping is more like it. But yeah. I guess I got lucky.”

“Very,” Whitfield said. “Those things can rip appendages off of us like wings off a fly.” The door opened and Snow, looking both solemn and perturbed, entered. He offered a nod to Whitfield as he took his seat.

“Is what Officer Riley said correct? That you have dispensation to work with us?”

“Yes, sir. My supervisor agreed that we need to get this thing handled quickly. And since you guys are willing to do the legwork on it, he said that the least we can do is give you a researcher.”

Snow thought about it for a moment then nodded. “Then take notes, Whitfield, this is what we’ll need to know.” Whitfield pulled his phone from his pocket and apparently hit a record button because he nodded to Snow. “Right, we need to know if there is any specific kind of chalk needed for this ritual. A specific mixture, color, etcetera. How many white candles and where they go exactly? We’ll need the precise runes that need to be put down and any specific way that they need to be drawn. Any specific dagger used in the letting of our energy, or blood. Any chants or gestures that have to be performed, and if there is any specific placing of people or ghosts, including the creature we seek to undo. Do you have all that?”

Whitfield hit stop on his recorder and nodded. “Got it, and I‘ll get right on it. But how are you going to manage it? It’s going to take both our kind and the breathers to get this done.”

“We’ve got that handled, I believe. Now hurry on this. I want to get this done before it consumes anyone else.”

Whitfield nodded and rose, scurrying from the room. Once the door had closed, Cadence looked over the desks at Snow. “So?” She asked as she waited for him to open up about what was going through his head. He met her gaze and for a moment, they simply contemplated one another. At length, he finally broke the silence.

“Why on earth would Alistair seem to be so upset about us bothering NHD if they had already agreed to let us borrow Whitfield? Why be so upset and take us out of our area, put us on desk duty? Why all the theatrics?”

“I don’t know, but at this point, I’m very sure that’s all that was. Maybe he’s testing you? To see if you have the balls to keep going without his approval.”

“Do you really think that?”

“I don’t know, but it is a possibility. It’s possible he wants to make sure you can stand alone, without him, both as a mentor and as an officer,” she said. “You know him better than I do. And for what it’s worth I’m sorry I lost my temper. I just hated seeing him treat you like that.”

Snow smiled wistfully at her. “That’s very sweet of you Cadence, thank you. Well, I suppose we’ll see what he makes of us staying on the case despite his bluster, won’t we?”

Cadence smiled and nodded, relieved that he wasn’t going to give up simply because his old mentor had yelled at him. “So,” she said as she switched their topic of conversation. “I found Bethany, or, at least, a listing for her, but I have no idea what the letters numbers and symbols after her name mean.”

“Oh! Right!” He opened his laptop up and took a look. “Well… That’s almost too bloody convenient.”

“What is?”

“She’s on our level, a guidance counselor I suppose you would say.”

“Seriously?” Cadence asked. She wondered for a moment if he was messing with her.

“Seriously indeed,” he said. “Come on. If you can manage to hobble across the office, let’s see if she has any plans for tonight. And be careful.” He reminded her as she started to rise.

They left their office and Snow led Cadence through the observation bay and over to a set of doors marked “Guidance.” Once inside they were met with a very serene white waiting room with soft, gauzy fabrics. At a desk in the middle of the room sat an elderly looking woman. There were seating arrangements along all of the walls. The old woman at the desk smiled up at them in greeting.

“Yes?” she asked.

“Is Miss Saxon available?” Snow asked.

“Oh no, I’m sorry, she is in with someone right now. But they should be done soon. If you’d like to wait you can have a seat.”

“Thank you,” Snow said. He moved over to one of the couches and took a seat. Cadence followed but did not take a seat. She remained standing, arms crossed over her chest.

“Are you alright?” he asked as he noted the defensive posture.

“Yeah,” she responded, a little too quickly.

“Why don’t you take a seat?”

“It’s all white in here. I don’t want to bleed on anything.”

Snow arched an eyebrow. “Cadence the furniture in here can be cleaned just as easily as you cleaned your shirt earlier. You won’t be permanently staining or ruining any of the furniture, I assure you.”

“It’s not that,” she said. “I’ve never been comfortable in all white places, even when I was alive. It’s too … I don’t know, too sterile maybe?”

“Reminds you of hospitals?”

“Maybe that’s it, I don’t know. All I know is that the whiter a room is, the more nervous I get. I’ve never seen or heard of anything good happening in all white rooms.”

“Oh I can help with that, dear,” the old woman at the desk piped up. She put a hand flat out on her desk, and color spread from there. The colors were soft and muted, blushing pinks and dusty roses. She wasn’t a huge fan of pink either, but it was better than white. Cadence relaxed noticeably.

“Thanks,” she said to the secretary. It was only a few minutes later that one of the office doors opened and a very pretty young blonde woman emerged from the office alone.

“Someone else for me, Mrs. Steinberg?” Bethany asked.

“Yes, dear, those two wanted to speak to you,” she said and gestured towards Snow and Cadence, who both rose and made their way over to her.

“Miss Saxon?” Snow asked, ever the expert at asking the obvious.

“Yes.” She smiled and waved them back to her office. Much to Cade’s relief Bethany’s office was a mix of green and gold. She had a nice wooden desk, comfortable chairs, and a door leading out the back of the office. Once the door they had entered through had closed, Snow offered his hand to the girl.

“I’m Officer Snow, and this is Officer Riley, Miss Saxon.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said as she shook each hand in turn. “Am I in some sort of trouble?” she asked with a smile.

“Not at all, Miss, not at all. We have, well, rather an odd situation that we were hoping to ask your help on.”

“Sure,” she said. She gestured to the chairs in front of her desk, an indication that they should sit. They took the offered chairs, Cadence easing down into hers carefully. Snow furrowed his brow, not entirely sure how to start. He looked to Cadence for help.

“Miss Saxon,” she began, “we’re working on a case where we’ve had to be a little… unorthodox. We’ve had to enlist the help of a living being to assist us in taking care of a non-human entity that is currently running rampant and devouring spirits. That person has agreed to help us but asked if we could do something in return for him, to help him.”

“Nice of that person to help you, given how dangerous I’ve heard the non-human spirits can be. But why come to me? What can I do for him?”

“You could visit him?” Cadence said, and hoped she was taking this in the right direction.

“I knew this person?” she asked her smile beginning to falter.

Cadence nodded. “You did, yes. His name is Aiden?”

Bethany’s eyes widened and she went still for a moment. “Aiden?” She breathed.

“Yes. Aiden asked if we could find you. Make sure you were alright. I think he might prefer to see you himself, however.”

“How can he see me, I’m dead.” She looked torn between being devastated at the memory of Aiden and elated at the possibility of a few moments of stolen time with him.

“In his dreams,” Cadence replied.

“I’m sorry.” Snow interrupted as something occurred to him. “Did no one ever take you to say your goodbyes when you died, Miss Saxon?”

“They said I was only allowed to see two people. I had to see my parents first. So I never got to say goodbye to anyone else.”

“Do you recall who brought you over?” Snow asked. “Usually, it’s not limited. The whole procedure is done so that you can say goodbye to those you loved so you can rest easy.”

“No, I’ve never seen the man again. He took me to my parents then dropped me off here in the waiting room for guidance.”

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. If you want to go, we can take you to Aiden and give you time to say goodbye to him. If you don’t want to go we understand,” Snow said.

Bethany thought about it for a moment and then she smiled a bit sadly. “I’d like to go. I would love to be able to talk to him one more time.”

“You do realize this is a one-time only event, right?” Cadence asked, not wanting them to end up being a sort of ghostly dating service.

“Yes, I do, and thank you. Do we go now?”

“Yes, if you don’t mind?” Snow asked. He had no idea when Whitfield was going to be able to get back to them about the ritual specifics, but he had an idea. He wanted Cadence to talk to Aiden as well, to set some things in motion.

Bethany nodded and they all rose and left the office. Snow and Cadence led Bethany out into the observation bay area, and across, not to their office but to their hall of doors. She looked duly impressed at the number of doors in there as the two officers led the way down the hall. Snow had installed a door to the parking lot outside of Aiden’s building. He unlocked that door and the three of them stepped through.

“Wow. I haven’t been here in so long,” Bethany commented. “Oh god,” she said and laughed, “he still owns that van?”

“Yeah, apparently,” Cadence said, smiling as well. Snow and Cadence talked quietly about things that had to be conveyed to Aiden as Bethany took the lead, heading back up to the apartment she had known so well. The apartment itself was dark, being just after midnight. The three ghosts stalked noiselessly through the living room, passing into the bedroom easily.

A noise that sounded half like a sob and half like a laugh came from Bethany. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I just never thought I would get to see him in person again.” Aiden was splayed out on the bed, on top of the covers, still in his clothes. Bethany moved to his side of the bed and reached down, caressing just over his face.

“Now Miss Saxon, if you don’t mind I would like Officer Riley to speak with him first. I have a feeling he will be a bit less distracted before he sees you rather than after. And then that gives the two of you plenty of time to say your goodbyes.” Bethany nodded, her eyes having welled up with tears.

Cadence looked to Snow and nodded, sitting down on the opposite side of the bed, taking Aiden’s loose hand in one of hers and Snow’s hand in the other. She closed her eyes.

In his dream, he was pacing around the lobby of Lexington Hills, in a Ghostbusters costume. He had the proton backpack and everything. Cadence couldn’t help but chuckle as she entered the front doors of the hospital. Aiden turned swiftly, pointing the nozzle of the hose like a weapon at her then relaxed as he recognized her.

“You.”

“Me,” she agreed, nodding. “I got your message.”

“So I see. You were a detective huh?”

“I was. Please tell me you didn’t go to the precinct.”

“No, I just Googled the information you gave me. Sorry about your little brother.”

“Thanks. I found Bethany.”

Aiden’s eyes lit up. “Really? Is she okay?”

“She’s fine, and she’s here. She’s very eager to see you.”

“Where?” he asked, looking around. Cadence came over to him and stopped him.

“Three things first. One, you might want to change,” she said and grinned. “I’m not sure how well a ghost might take the Ghostbusters get up. I think it’s funny, but I’ve been told that my sense of humor is a little… twisted.”

He grinned sheepishly at her. “Sorry. Uh… how do I change, there’s no closet…”

“He can change his clothes.” She heard Snow’s voice project into his mind. “Just like you did with yours, have him settle down and visualize it.”

Cadence nodded. “Just calm down, Aiden, you’re getting too worked up. You’ll wake yourself up. Now close your eyes, and just imagine what you want to be wearing.”

Aiden took a deep breath and closed his eyes. The khaki jumpsuit faded and was replaced by jeans, a button down shirt, and a blazer. He opened his eyes and looked down, grinning a bit when he saw he had been successful.

“Perfect,” Cadence said. “Now second, were you able to talk to your friend Dan?”

Aiden shook his head. “No. I called him but got no answer. I even stopped by his place on the way back from Lexington this afternoon. His car was there, but he didn’t answer his door. I wasn’t about to bust it in looking for him. I figure he’s just being a chicken shit and doesn’t want to face me after leaving Derrick and Lauren alone with that monster.”

“Alright, thanks for trying,” Cadence said. “Now third, we need your help in getting that shadow creature to go away.”

“I don’t know how to handle that kind of stuff, I’m not into cults and rituals and shit.”

“No, but you breathe. You can go to the store and buy a bunch of white candles and bring chalk and draw runes.”

“Look you guys do know I’m not the psychic one in the group right? That’s Lauren.”

“Ask him if he thinks Lauren would be willing to help us out as well.” She heard Snow’s voice in her head once again.

“Would Lauren be willing to help if you asked? Honestly, we may need all of you. You, Lauren, Derrick, and Dan.”

Aiden paused, frowning for a moment. “I’ll help, and I’ll ask. I want Derrick there too anyway, for something you aren’t going to like, but what the hell.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want to record this.”

“We’ve already had to ask you to bury the evidence you got last time.”

“And I have no problem burying this too. I don’t want it to show the world. I want it for me, for my own edification.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You know how some people collect movie memorabilia or teapots or clocks?”

Cadence nodded. “Yeah.”

“I understand where he is going with this, it’ll be fine,” Snow said in her mind.

“I just want to collect the evidence. It’s just something I need to do.”

“Alright,” she said, not entirely happy, but willing to go with it if Snow said it was okay. “Bring Dan, Lauren, and Derrick, and whatever recording devices you like. Also chalk and white candles. We’ll meet you tomorrow evening at Lexington Hills.”

She paused and looked around. “This isn’t very romantic.” She let out a pulse of energy and the scene changed to a forest clearing with a blanket on the mossy forest floor. Sunlight fell through the treetops, leaving dappled shadows on the blanket. Birds were chirping and a stream could be heard nearby. Green and gold, just like Bethany’s office. She nodded to herself. “Much better. Now wait here, Bethany will be along in a moment.”

She opened her eyes and rose from the bed, moving aside and gesturing for Bethany to take a seat. The blond sat down and did as she had seen Cadence do, slipping one of her hands into Snow’s, and the other into Aiden’s. She closed her eyes and went still, a soft smile on her face.

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