Waking Up Dead

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Chapter 2

Cadence lugged two heavy suitcases up the stairs towards her new apartment. She was very thankful that this was the last load of things from the truck.

“You had to get the third-floor walk-up, didn’t you?” Andy asked as he carried two boxes in his arms, climbing the stairs behind her.

“Quit your bitching,” she said with a grimace as she hoisted the roller suitcases over the last step to the third-floor landing. “At least, I didn’t get the one on the fifth floor.” She looked behind her and grinned at her partner before moving down the hallway to her door.

“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled.

Once inside the apartment they each put down what they had been carrying and flopped on the black microfiber covered couch. They had spent the morning bringing up all of the furniture and putting it all together before they started to bring up the boxes and bags. This meant that they had the couch and television in place so they could relax after it was all done.

Andy looked down as Cadence’s phone landed in his lap. “Why is your phone visiting me?” he asked, looking over at her.

“You call, I pay,” she replied. “But no weird stuff on the pizza this time.”

“Pineapple is not weird stuff,” he said and protested with a roll of his eyes. He got up, his muscular frame topping six feet tall, and glowered at her for a moment before moving to the kitchen counter where they had tossed all of the “new resident” papers, which included coupons for the local pizza place.

“Fruit is for dessert or a snack, it is not a pizza topping,” she said. Even though her muscles were protesting movement, she got up as well and headed for the fridge. She got out two beers from the case she had put in there when they first arrived. They were now blissfully cold. Grabbing her keychain, she used the bottle opener she had on it to remove the caps. She handed Andy his beer when he hung up the phone.

“I knew there was a reason I agreed to help you move in here,” he said, taking the beer and downing a swig of it.

“Yes, pizza and beer, I know how to bribe well.” They clinked the necks of their bottles together and drank.

“I’m honestly surprised you didn’t stay at your old place,” Andy said as they sat back down on the couch.

“Nah,” she said, shaking her head. “I couldn’t. After Mom had died, once I was able to start donating her things, the place just felt, I don’t know, alien,” she said as she shrugged. “Once the stuff that made the place our home started going, it just wasn’t home anymore. You know?”

“I get it,” he said. He looked around the sparse apartment. “Are they going to let you paint the place?” he asked, noting the walls were all white and he knew how much she hated white walls.

“Yeah, I have to repaint them white before I leave though. I was thinking a light blue or pale gray or something.”

“I don’t know,” Andy said, looking around. “I see it more in a kind of pink color.”

“Pink?” she asked, looking at him in disbelief.

“Yeah.” He grinned, knowing he was getting her goat. “I mean, you’re a girl and all. Aren’t you supposed to be all pinks and purples and lace and —” He was cut off by a couch cushion hitting him in the face.

“Sexist asshole,” Cadence said, though she was laughing as she said it. They both laughed and he tossed the pillow back at her.

After taking another drink of his beer he leaned back and eyed her for a moment. “You sure you’re going to be okay here?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” she asked, a little surprised at his concern.

“Eh, never mind. I know you can take care of yourself.”

Cadence nodded, more gratified by his knowledge of her abilities than his concern for her. A knock sounded on the door and she rose with a groan. “Man, I haven’t been this sore in ages.”

“You’re getting old, lady,” Andy called over his shoulder, and he didn’t even have to turn to know she was flipping him off for the comment.

*****

The memories of who Andy was, how close they had been, came flooding back. A few months after they had been partnered she and Andy had traded keys to each other’s homes. Just in case. That had been six and a half years ago. They had been partners, best friends, and confidants, but had always managed to stay just this side of the line that led to them being something more.

As Cadence stood in her apartment, looking around the living room she thought it seemed a little strange. Somehow her death had made it seem a little alien to her. She was looking at the place now not as her home but as if she was visiting someone else’s home. She knew that Andy had been here to collect her cat. Snow had told her that much. The lack of the little fur ball in the apartment was very obvious to Cadence.

She looked around at the books she would never get around to finishing. The movies she wished she could watch one more time. She paused by the bookshelf and frowned at an empty shelf. The lines that lacked dust in some places were a stark contrast to the light layer of dust on the rest of the shelf, outlining that some things were missing. “My pictures are gone,” she said as she reached out to touch a dust free line where a frame had been on the shelf.

“Sorry?” Snow asked as he turned from looking at her movie collection.

“I remember, I had pictures on this shelf. Family pictures, my folks, my brother. They’re gone.”

“Perhaps your partner claimed them when he claimed your cat? Given how long the two of you knew each other it’s very likely, he knew what your family meant to you.”

Cadence nodded, acknowledging that Snow was right. Andy had probably taken them. She doubted anyone else would have come to her apartment to remove things. Andy was the only one with a key and she doubted the building manager would be so swift to start taking things out of her apartment since she was paid until the end of the month.

As she looked around, she realized how true Snow’s words had been when he said she barely spent any time at home. Other than the memory of moving in, with Andy’s help, she didn’t really have any fond memories of this place, even though, she had lived here for five years. On work days, she really only came home to sleep, shower, and change. Days off she was at home a little longer, but even then it wasn’t by much. She would take her time with breakfast and coffee but then fill her days with things to do and activities that took her out of the house.

The apartment reflected that too. Dishes were in the sink from that morning’s breakfast. But that was really the only sign the place was lived in. Otherwise it could have just been an unoccupied furnished apartment. Without her cat and her family photos, there was little to no personalization. Her brow furrowed as she looked around again and realized just how sparse the place was.

“Is something wrong?” Snow asked as he watched her.

“No, just…” she said, trying to find the words.

“Saying goodbye?” he suggested.

“More like realizing there is nothing here to really say goodbye to,” she said.

Snow nodded and crossed the room to her, holding out his hand. “Then perhaps we should head over to your precinct building?” he offered. She nodded and took his hand so he could teleport them.

The colors of her apartment seemed to blend and streak like a watercolor painting someone left in the wind and rain and the room felt like it was spinning. Then in an instant everything solidified once more and she was standing beside her desk at work. The windows reflected the inside of the precinct as the night beyond them rendered them into mirrors. Despite the late hour, there were still a few detectives in the office, but it didn’t look like Andy was one of them.

It was a tradition in the station that when someone died, you wrote them a goodbye message and put it on their desk or in their mail box. Her desk had been covered in sticky notes. It made her smile a little as she saw it. She moved around her desk as she read them.

“That’s a nice gesture,” Snow said as he read some of them as well.

“It is. I can remember when I started here; the Captain said that it helped us have closure when we lost someone. I know I’ve written them a few times. I never thought I would be reading ones for me.”

“No one ever does,” Snow said solemnly.

As they stood there reading the notes an officer with the name badge stating “Keller” came up to the desk, a note in his hand. He looked drawn and his eyes were red. She had noticed him at his desk when they arrived, and an officer had congratulated him for having gotten the arrest of the year. Yet for such an accomplishment he looked far from happy. Of course no one was ever happy when one of their own died.

“Wish I’d known you better, Riley,” Keller said, his voice rough. “I wish today had gone differently.” He frowned deeply and then placed the sticky note on her desk lamp. There were only two words written in black ink on the orange square of paper: “I’m sorry.”

Cadence turned to Snow. “What does he mean by that?”

“That he wishes he’d gotten to know you better?” Snow asked, acting deliberately obtuse.

“That he wished today had gone differently,” she said, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“I would imagine everyone wishes the day had gone a different way when one of their own dies.”

“You are a terrible liar, Snow. Was he involved in what happened?”

“He was.” Snow nodded. “But that is something that you will remember in your own time.”

Another detective, one who must have been new to the precinct, came up to Keller looking puzzled. “What’s with all the notes on the desk? Is it some kind of prank?” He hadn’t been there long enough to know.

“I wish it was, kid,” Keller, who called anyone under 45 a kid, said.

The new detective leaned forward and read some of the notes. “Woah, wait. She died?”

“In the line of duty,” Keller said. “So if you have anything you wanted to say to her write a note and put it on the desk.”

The new detective looked a little shaken that someone he had just seen that morning could be dead a few hours later. Being slapped in the face, with your own mortality, has a habit of provoking that kind of reaction. Cadence wandered away from her paper-covered desk towards the office of her Captain. Snow followed at a discreet distance.

The Captain was hunched over his desk, entrenched in paperwork. A cup of coffee sat on one side which had long since gone cold. His door was open so Cadence drifted into his office, feeling somewhat odd because of entering without pausing to knock. Captain Rodriguez was a man in his fifties who usually looked very good for his age. Tonight he looked tired, haggard, and overworked. She had seen that look on his face a few times before. Each time had been when an officer had gone down in the line of duty.

“I’ve always hated seeing him like this,” she said, whispering to Snow.

“You don’t have to whisper, they’re not going to hear you,” Snow said.

“Oh, right.” She frowned. Out in the bullpen, there was a constant murmur of noise from voices and phones and such. Due to the noise, she hadn’t bothered with trying to be quiet. In Rodriguez’s office, however, there was no such background noise, and she had given in to the desire to not break the quiet solitude in which he worked. She stood there for a few minutes just watching Captain Rodriguez as he filled out paperwork.

“Are you saying goodbye, Cadence? Or putting off our final stop?” Snow asked. Cadence opened her mouth to protest but then closed it when she realized he was right. She wasn’t lingering at the precinct because she was going to miss it. To her, the station represented the part of her job she detested: the paperwork. There was some camaraderie and such to be had there, but the majority of time spent here was spent doing just what her Captain was currently saddled with. She wasn’t going to miss it and there was no pretending she was saying goodbye to it. He was right. She was putting off their final stop.

“Fine, you’re right. Let’s go,” she sighed, reaching over to put her hand in his so he could transport them once again.

*****

Cadence stepped off the treadmill, uncapping her water and taking a big drink from the bottle. The gym at the Police Academy was a popular place, and there were several other recruits working out. It was noisy with clanging weights and music, and the smell of sweat seemed embedded in the walls, but she enjoyed it. The treadmill was the last part of her workout routine, so as she recapped her water, she began to make her way to the door. Just a short walk across the campus separated her from a gloriously hot shower.

Going from the musty, sweaty gym to the fresh air of the night was a small luxury in and of itself. The light breeze helped cool and dry the perspiration on her skin. Cade enjoyed her walks, enjoying the silence of the night. It was a nice change from the noise of her classmates. She was halfway across the quad when she saw them. Three guys from her class who had apparently elected themselves class assholes. They picked on the guys in their class that were smaller than them and they treated the few women that were in class even worse. She was determined to ignore them as both she and their group approached the fountain in the center of the quad. She hoped they would be too busy or entertained with their own conversation to notice her.

“Well if it isn’t little Riley,” said Petrucci, who was the ringleader of the group. His greeting was followed by snickers from the other two. Cade rolled her eyes and continued on, her eyes fixed on her dorm building. “Hey, I’m talking to you,” he said in a growling voice.

“How lovely for you,” she said, sounding bored. “Now excuse me, I have a burning desire to be anywhere else but here.” She hadn’t slowed or turned, but the two others with Petrucci sprinted up to block her path. “Really?” she asked looking between the two grinning fools.

Petrucci’s massive hand came down on her shoulder and she spun around, knocking his hand off of her in the process. She was of normal height for a woman, but he still towered a good foot above her. The buzz cut of his hair made his head look huge, almost comical. “What’s the problem, Riley?” he asked, smiling. “Got a rug to munch?” He had made it known in classes that he thought any woman in this line of work had to be a lesbian.

“What’s the problem, Petrucci,” she echoed his words, “the circle jerk end early?”

For a big guy, he could sometimes move fast. Her head snapped suddenly to the side and she saw stars a second or two before she felt the sting of his hand print on the side of her face. She hadn’t anticipated he would actually hit her, but the slap only served to anger her, not make her cower. As she turned her head back to him, she noticed the stillness of his partners, who were definitely not smiling anymore. She wasn’t sure if they were surprised that he had hit her as well, or if they were simply preparing for a fight.

“Wow! Guess I hit a nerve,” she said. He moved to strike her again but she was ready for it this time. “But you made a big mistake,” she continued, catching his hand with hers.

“Let me guess.” He sneered, not dropping his hand. “Thinking I could get away with hitting a woman?”

“Nope. Thinking I wouldn’t fight back.” With that, she threw his hand aside and punched him hard in the gut.

He doubled over as his friends grabbed her arms and pulled her back away from Petrucci. She kicked high as they pulled her and landed a kick on Petrucci’s jaw. He howled in pain and anger. Cadence managed to get one of her arms away from the guy on her left. Still, the guy on the right was quick and he kicked her legs out from under her and then let her go. She fell unceremoniously to the ground. Petrucci quickly straddled her, kneeling over her waist.

“You’ll pay for that,” he growled.

“Hey,” another male voice cut in, trying to break up the fight.

“How unoriginal of you,” she quipped back to Petrucci as she threw another punch, but this time, he caught her hand in his. He pulled his free hand back, aiming squarely for her face, and brought it down with the full force of his strength and anger. Cade twisted violently to one side as his sledgehammer-like hand came down. The sound of the impact of Petrucci’s fist on the concrete was punctuated by pops and cracks as bones broke, and was quickly followed by the sound of his scream. He fell over to one side and Cade scrambled to her feet, as Petrucci’s goons were now occupied with trying to get their leader on his feet.

A hand on her arm made her rear back, ready to punch until she recognized the face as someone else from her class. “Easy,” he said. “I’m on your side. Let’s get out of here, though.”

She nodded and as Petrucci’s friends got him back up and began leading him off towards the clinic, Cade and her new friend began heading towards the dorms. “You’re Riley, right?” he asked.

“Yeah, and you?”

“Andrew Halleran, but call me Andy.”

*****

Andrew sat on the black leather couch in his apartment. The television was on, but he wasn’t really paying attention to the show. His eyes were red, the only evidence of his tears. He had never lost a partner before. Hell, she had been practically the only partner he’d had.

Going back to the precinct alone after the arrest had been awful. Being there had been worse. The silence of the officers at the precinct when he came in with Keller and Saddiq to process Scott Sage was deafening. They all knew. When an officer was injured in the line of duty, word spread fast. When an officer lost their life, it spread like wild fire. He had somehow managed to wait until he was home to rage and cry.

When the Captain told him to take some time off and make an appointment with the police shrink, he took it in stride and didn’t argue. He needed the time off, needed to adjust, and he couldn’t handle the silence and looks that followed him around like a cloud. A few of the other detectives had come to him at the station, offering their condolences. Most had not been able to brave the awkwardness of the situation or the cloud of anger he had cloaked himself in to get through the remainder of his duties that day. Many others couldn’t bring themselves to talk to him. They didn’t know what to say in the face of a situation every single one of them prayed to never find themselves in.

Once off the clock, he had gone to Cadence’s apartment and gotten her cat, Darwin. He wasn’t about to leave that black ball of fuzz she had raised from a kitten all alone. He had also grabbed a few pictures of hers that he knew meant the world to her, mostly pictures of her family since she had lost them all so young. The pictures were in a box in his room. Darwin sat next to him on the couch, having not left his side since being let out of the cat carrier.

The cat turned sharply, looking at Cadence as she and Snow materialized in the room. It meowed and began purring, looking off to the right where she was. Andrew looked down at the sudden meow and petted the cat.

“What’s up Darwin?” he asked. Cade noticed that when he spoke his voice was rough as if he had been screaming earlier. The cat didn’t answer, but it kept its yellow eyes glued to where Cadence stood.

Cadence wrapped her arms around her middle as she looked at Darwin and Andrew. She wanted to hold her cat, draw comfort from snuggling him as she usually did. It also left her raw inside to see the pain and grief so very visible on Andrew’s face. Snow put a hand on her shoulder.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice gentle.

“I’m dead. What do you think?” she replied dryly.

“I think seeing the grief you leave behind can just about kill you again if you let it.”

“I’m fine,” she replied, her voice harsher in its insistence than perhaps she meant it to be.

Osmond nodded and took his hand from her shoulder, taking a step back to let her have space. Cadence moved forward, towards the couch. Darwin’s eyes steadily followed her as she moved. He purred a little louder as she neared. Andrew, however, thought that had to do with his petting of the cat. Cadence smiled to Darwin and reached out but paused as she remembered she couldn’t touch him. She frowned at the reminder that she would never again feel the soft velvet of his thick black fur. She took a deep if unsteady breath and tried to clamp down on her emotions.

“Take care of him for me, Dar. He needs you now.”

The cat meowed in response and turned, padding onto Andrew’s lap, curling up there. Snow inched forward, following Cadence towards the couch. “We’ll have to wait for him to go to sleep for you to talk to him. Judging by the beer cans on the coffee table it won’t be long.”

“He’s blaming himself,” she said quietly.

“He lost a partner in the line of duty. Not to mention a friend, and someone he loved,” said Osmund.

“He’s been crying… He never cries.”

“He’s never really lost anyone like this I would venture.”

“No, he hasn’t. His family is still alive. His grandparents died when he was a kid, but he was still in elementary school. He lost a couple of friends in high school to a drunk-driving accident. But…”

“But you are the first person he has loved as an adult to die. And to die when he believes he had the power to stop it.”

“I know what he’s thinking. That he should have been faster getting in there. That he should have taken the fire escape instead of me. It’s what I would be doing if the situation was reversed. He’s blaming himself.”

“Should he be?” Snow asked, curious to find out if she blamed her former partner for her demise.

“No.” She turned to look angrily at Snow, incredulous that he could even suggest such a thing. “Shit happens. It’s the risk you take when you sign up for the badge.”

Snow nodded and crossed his arms over his chest as Andrew rose from the couch and headed into his bedroom, Darwin tucked under his arm. He gestured for Cadence to lead, and the two ghosts followed the officer unseen into his bedroom.

When he began undressing for bed, Cadence turned to face Snow, to give Andrew his privacy. “So how come you could touch me?” she asked suddenly. “That’s something I meant to ask. We walk through walls and furniture here, yet the floor holds us up. You can touch me and the things in your office seemed awfully solid.”

Snow chuckled lightly. “It’s something of a trick of the mind. The floor here holds us up because we think it should because this is where we want to be. As for things being solid, we’re solid to each other because we exist on the same plane. We’re both ghosts. He’s alive so his plane of existence is just ever so slightly removed from ours. And because of that, we pass through them.”

Cadence gave him a skeptical look but shrugged. “I suppose that’s what I get for asking. Were you always a ghost, is that how you are such an expert on this crap?”

Snow drew himself up to his full height. “This crap as you call it is the very fiber of our existence. Understanding it can be very fundamental, especially when your job entails dealing very heavily with haunting spirits.”

“And processing newbie ghosts who need to make afterlife decisions?”

“Yes that too, as they do tend to have more questions than a toddler.”

Cadence took that in stride and calmly stuck her tongue out at him. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“Sometimes I hate dealing with detectives,” he sighed. “No, I have not always been a ghost. I was an inspector for Scotland Yard. I died in 1968. And when I died I was given the same choice you have been presented with.”

“So you’re a cop? And here I thought you were some kind of ghostly guidance counselor.” Osmond graced her with an irritated look, which only provoked a grin from her.

“Oh yes, get your laughs in now. This isn’t going to be as easy as you want it to be.” He moved forward, and Cadence looked to see that more time had passed than she had thought. Andrew was fast asleep in bed. Darwin had curled up at his feet, but the cat was watching her intently.

Cadence followed Snow to the bed and sat down beside Andy at Snow’s behest. “Now take his hand in one of yours,” he coached her. “Then take my hand in your other one.” She did so, following his instructions without a word. “Now close your eyes,” Snow said. “I’ll do the rest.” Cadence closed her eyes.

*****

The sun was high in the sky as Cadence climbed the creaking metal stairs of the building’s fire escape. The breeze brought the not so pleasant scent of the garbage dumpster to her nose, despite being almost four floors up. The bullet proof vest felt bulky, as always, but was necessary. She climbed to the fourth floor landing and stopped by the window there as she unholstered her gun.

The room beyond the glass was devoid of people and very spartan in its furnishings. A twin bed and a dresser were all it housed. The room could have been mistaken for vacant if it weren’t for the clothes sticking out of a dresser drawer and the cell phone charging on the dresser top. Cade made note of where the closet door and the door into the room were. She then pulled the radio that was velcroed to the shoulder of her vest from its resting place.

“Riley, clear,” she said into it.

She ducked back by the wall to keep out of sight as a towel-clad man walked into the room. She could feel the adrenaline pumping through her as she strained to hear noises in the room, to tell where he was, but over the noise of the city, in general, it was almost impossible to make out individual footsteps in the next room.

A thudding sound and muffled voices were heard from inside the apartment and a second later Cade saw the window beside her lift open. Scott Sage, the man who all evidence was pointing to as the Sommerset Strangler, began to climb out onto the landing of the fire escape but stopped half way out of his bedroom when he saw Detective Riley there with her gun leveled at him. He had managed to dress quickly in jeans and a T-shirt, although, he was barefooted.

“Freeze,” she barked at him. He glanced back into the room, and the sounds of the other officers starting to break down the door could be heard. He put his hands up and moved fully out onto the staircase landing. Cadence moved to him, pulling cuffs from the side of her belt. As she opened her mouth to start reading him his Miranda rights, he lunged into her, using the weight of his body to try to knock her down.

The fire escape protested with a metallic scream as Sage landed on top of Cadence, knocking them both to the metal-grate landing outside his window. She got a cuff on one of his wrists as he picked himself up off of her and she followed him right up, getting back on her feet. She reached for his other hand as he tried to pull the cuffed one away from her. He twisted and with his free hand he punched her, his fist impacting against her cheek. He tore his cuffed hand away from her in the brief moment she was stunned, but she moved her leg in a well-trained strike, sweeping his legs out from under him. Flecks of rust fell like snow from the fire escape as the entire thing shuddered under the impact of Sage’s hard fall back to the landing.

Her cheek and jaw would be black and blue later she knew, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was getting this psychopath contained and under arrest. She bent down to wrench his arm up to continue cuffing him but he twisted himself around putting his arm out of reach.

All the while they could both hear the thudding of the door being broken down within the apartment. Finally, the door broke and Keller and Saddiq, with Cade’s partner Andy hot on their heels, ran into the apartment.

Sage knew that if he didn’t get her off of him that he would never be able to get away. He swung his legs around and kicked up with all of his might. His feet connected squarely with her chest and he threw all of his strength, heightened by his adrenaline, into the kick.

The forceful kick was stronger than she anticipated, and it threw her back. She grabbed for the railing, trying to steady herself and maybe use the momentum to propel herself back into the fight with Sage. However, the sun, rain, and years of exposure and wear and tear had worn the strength of the metal away. The railing was rusted and the metal was brittle, giving way under the force of her weight. As she grabbed the railing, it snapped off, doing nothing to keep her from falling. She fell backward in an arc away from the fire escape watching as the window of the apartment and Sage himself grew smaller and further away.

Entering Andy’s dream, Cadence found herself outside Scott Sage’s bedroom. The setting of the dream had triggered the memory of how she died, and now she didn’t think she would ever forget the place. Apparently it weighed heavily on Andy’s mind too since it was his dream. She had materialized on the landing of the fire escape, where she had last been wrestling with Sage. Andrew was just walking into the room. When he saw her, he ran forward and grabbed her arm, pulling her into the room through the open window, and into a hug. She hugged him back fiercely, fighting back tears.

“I’m so sorry,” Andrew finally said after a few moments of silence between them. “I’m so sorry. I should never have let you take the fire escape.”

“It was a solid plan, Andy,” she said and found her voice as gruff with raw emotions as his was. “It’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault but Sage’s.”

“We got him, though. He’s in jail. If there is any justice in the world, he’ll get death.” He finally let her go and his brown eyes roamed her face as if searching it for answers. “I’m dreaming aren’t I?”

“Yeah,” she said. “You are. I had to come and say goodbye, though. Make sure you knew it wasn’t your fault.”

“But it was.”

“No, Andy, it wasn’t. Come on now, don’t be an idiot. You know as well as I do that when you sign up for the badge, risk of severe injury or death goes with it. And at least, you guys got the bastard. No one else will be hurt because of him. Just please, stop blaming yourself. You all need to stop blaming yourselves. You, Keller, Saddiq, all of you. It sucks but that goes with the job.”

He searched her eyes for a long moment then lowered his gaze. “I loved you, you know.”

“We were partners and best friends for years, of course —”

“No,” he interrupted her. “Not like that. Not as partners, not as friends. The timing just never worked out and I never got up the courage to say it. I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to ruin the partnership or the friendship. I came up with a thousand different excuses over the years, and it boils down to me never having the balls to tell you. I loved you. Hell, before we got the call to run back up on the Sage arrest I was about to ask you out. I’d finally worked up the courage for that. Too little too late I guess.”

She rocked back on her heels as if she had been slapped. She had never known. What was even more shocking was the sudden realization that she had loved him as well. She had spent eight years with him as her best friend. The person she had spent the majority of her time with even when not on the job. When she did date someone else she always compared that person to Andy and the relationship she had with him. That was when the tears did fall.

“I love you too,” she said and forgot that she should probably use the past tense. They stood looking at each other, just letting the words sit there for a moment. It was as if, for just that moment, time stood still. Cadence forcefully shook herself out of it. He had been right in saying it was too little too late now. “But you still have a life, Andy. Live it. Please. And don’t ever be afraid to tell someone how you feel again. Take it from me, life is too short,” she said and managed an ironic grin through her tears.

He slid his arms around her again, holding her close and nuzzling into her hair. “Don’t go. Please. Let me wake up and find this was all just a nightmare, and you’re still here. Please…” his voice broke and a fresh wash of tears rained from his eyes as his body shuddered against hers.

His tears brought fresh sobs from her. It wasn’t fair, damn it. She didn’t want to go. Hell, she didn’t want to be dead. But to realize now that love had been at her fingertips, all this time, tore at her. The time they had wasted being too blind or too cowardly to own up to their feelings was sickening. And now it was all too late.

“We need to go,” she could hear Osmond’s voice in her head, even though it seemed that Andy couldn’t hear him. She did have to go. She had already been told she couldn’t stay and haunt, and honestly, she didn’t want to haunt Andy. That would only keep him from moving on with his life. Reluctantly she pushed away from him, breaking their embrace. She lifted her tear stained face to regard his and she took a deep breath.

“Grieve for me, Andy, but move on, please. I don’t want you to spend the rest of your life beating yourself up over what happened. I don’t want you hanging on to some romanticized notion of me and not living your life and loving someone else.” He opened his mouth to protest but she lifted a hand to stop him. “No. You will find love with someone else. Only next time, don’t be so afraid to say something. I know it sounds trite and cliché but time really is precious. Live and move on Andy, please.”

Andy frowned but nodded, tears spilling over his cheeks again, choking him up to where he couldn’t say anything in reply. Cadence fought down the urge to hug him again, knowing if she held him again that her resolve would crumble. She had to go. If she didn’t, she likely never would. She climbed back out the window and stood once more on the fire escape landing. She looked back over her shoulder and offered him a sad smile as fresh tears spilled down her cheeks.

“Goodbye Andy,” she said. Then she was gone.

*****

Cadence staggered out of the bedroom, sobbing. Snow followed behind and was, for the first time, seriously concerned about her. It was normal for the newly dead to grieve over their lost lives, but it was always difficult to see. He wasn’t generally involved in processing the newly deceased. He had gone through the process a handful of times but always with someone else as he had been learning how to do it. He had been so hopeful for her since she had been taking things so well once she had gotten past the initial shock of it. She had been focusing more on figuring out her new situation instead of focusing on what she had lost.

However, when they had reached the apartment he had known the score. He saw what her former partner had looked like, how grief-wracked he was. He had known then that the man had loved her as more than just friends, more than just partners. She had remained oblivious to her own feelings until Andrew had finally made the confession. Now things were going to be harder for her. It might have been best if Mr. Halleran had remained quiet about his love. Then perhaps she might have remained oblivious to her own feelings. But now it was out in the open and she stood in the living room, crying.

“We can’t stay,” he said gently. He knew she needed to deal with her grief but he was afraid that if he let her dwell on it too long he would lose her to desolation. That emotion had the potential to twist, corrupt, or even obliterate spirits. He didn’t want that to happen so he was gently trying to refocus her.

“I know,” she said and angrily tried to get herself under control. Then, more calmly, she repeated herself. “I know.” She wasn’t angry at Snow. She was angry at being seen as vulnerable. She hated crying and detested being seen doing so by others.

“I was married you know,” he said and hoped to ease her nerves by letting her know he had been there too. “We had been married for fifteen years. We had five children. No doubt there’d have been more if I hadn’t died.”

“How did you do it?” she asked as she wiped her cheeks and dried her eyes. “How were you able to turn around after saying goodbye and leave them?” she asked and tried to focus on the mechanics of the situation, the how-to, anything but her feelings.

He regarded her for just a moment, glad that he had once more been able to get her mind into questions instead of drowning in sorrow. But it still cost him a little to think about his own past. “I had a mentor who reminded me that I could still make a difference and help people. He also reminded me that we all leave loved ones behind. That it’s best just to make the cut and go so everyone can heal.”

“Rip the band-aid off fast, because the slower you do it the more it hurts,” she said.

“Yes exactly. I know how much you want to stay right now. Believe me, I do. But it’s not what’s best for either you or for him. Neither of you can act on your love anymore, and neither of you would be able to move on if you stayed, however strong the temptation is to do so. I’m sorry, but it’s best we go.” He could simply remove her from the apartment and take her back to the office in the blink of an eye. He wanted it to be her decision.

She sighed, wiping the last of her tears away. It hurt far more than she had thought it would but she knew Osmond was right. She needed to just rip the band-aid off and let things heal. Andy would be okay. And somehow, if she could keep moving and doing and thinking, she would be okay eventually too. It’s how she had gotten through her family’s deaths before. Just because she was on the other side of death’s coin didn’t mean she had to approach things any different. She nodded and moved over to Snow. “Alright, let’s go.”

He smiled softly at her and offered her his arm to escort her out.

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