Waking Up Dead

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Chapter 4

Lexington Hills hadn’t functioned as an asylum or hospital in almost twenty years though, at one point in time it had been both of those things. It closed its doors in 1998 when it could no longer afford to remain open and no one had looked back. The building showed signs of deterioration from its abandonment. Most of the windows had lost their glass and were either boarded up or just left open, with plants and ivy crawling inside the window. The roof had sprung leaks that weren’t tended to and the ensuing water damage had brought down some of the ceiling panels on the second floor of the two story building. It had rotted a good portion of exposed wood. It was dark, damp, and dusty with mold growing in just about every corner. And to a collection of former patients and employees, it was home.

Cadence looked around the lobby of the place and wondered, wisely in silence, how anyone could choose to remain in this desolate place. The staircase immediately on their right still stood just fine but the railing had given way in segments. The linoleum floor seemed mostly intact in here but you couldn’t tell what color or colors it had been due to the layers of dirt, grime, and dust on it. The same could be said for the majority of the walls as well. The windows in here had been boarded up but there were gaps in the boards and some ivy vines had crawled inside. There were four doors off of this room. One stood immediately to their left on the wall behind them. A double door was on the wall to their left and was obviously the front door as it was far more ornate than the others. Across from them was another door and to their right, beneath the balcony of the second floor landing was the last. A shadow detached itself from the corner of the lobby and materialized as a perfectly normal looking male orderly. He looked to be in his mid-twenties, had dark brown eyes, close-cropped brown hair, was of Latino descent, and wore a white uniform.

“Officer Snow?” he asked, extending a hand. Osmond reached out and shook the other man’s hand firmly.

“Yes, indeed,” he confirmed. “And this is my partner, Officer Riley.” Cadence reached out and shook his hand, in turn, noting that for ghosts, they still seemed to have a good grip. But maybe that went in with the whole mental image or projection thing. She would have to ask.

“Pleased to meet you, I’m Ramon Suarez,” he replied in a pleasant baritone. He then got down to business. “I heard the team out front this afternoon. They came into the lobby but no further. They made mention of getting dinner and their equipment then coming back tonight. They’ll be back soon I’m sure. Thank you for coming.”

“Not at all,” Snow replied. “That’s what we’re here for. Is there any particular area of worry?”

“There was a patient who has managed to give this place quite a reputation. She died in the fifties. She is very aggressive to men when they go into her room. She always was, even when she was alive. She would always lash out at the doctors or orderlies when we would go into her room. When she killed me with her fork… Well, that’s when they started locking her down in a feeding chair for the day.”

Cadence pressed her lips together, trying to forcefully not ask the questions that kept springing to mind. It was strange trying to control her impulses again, something she thought she had overcome in her young adulthood. But oh, so many things kept springing to mind.

“Is she able to physically harm the living when they come in here?” Snow asked, either ignoring or unaware of Cadence’s struggles.

“She has been known to scratch and punch,” he said, “and she screams a hell of a lot.” He added with a bit of a rueful smile.

“Is there any way we can keep them out of her room?”

“I don’t know. From things I have overheard she has become something of a legend to the living around here. So they may be coming in specifically to look for her.”

“Lock her door?”

“Her door rotted through. She was on the second floor, and the water damage up there took out most of the wooden doors.”

“What’s her name?” Cadence asked suddenly. She may be new but she was smart enough to figure out that if a person, or spirit, were averse to men, the female responder would be the one to handle the person.

“Ruby Jones.”

Cadence nodded. “Why don’t we see if I can calm Ruby down a little bit or distract her while you guys create a distraction of some sort away from her room? That way she stays quiet and you can lead the ghost hunters away from her.”

Osmond turned and smiled, pride in his eyes. He nodded. “Excellent plan, Riley. Excellent.”

Cadence smiled and nodded to him but she couldn’t help but feel a pang of hurt. It felt a little wrong working with a new partner and not Andy. She lowered her eyes, studying the floor instead of feeling sorry for herself. A car door thumping shut brought her attention once more to the here and now.

“Ramon, please make sure any others who need to be prepared are ready. Riley and I will take a look at this team as they enter. See what kind of a danger they pose, if any at all.” Ramon nodded and seemed to disappear from the spot he had been occupying. Cadence blinked then looked to Snow.

“When do I get to do that?” she whispered, knowing they had to maintain the image that both of them were well trained and not brand new to the afterlife.

“In time, in time,” he assured her. “We need to see what kind of equipment this group is bringing in. And by the way, good job on the plan. It’s solid. I just hope you’re good at dealing with irascible people.”

“Okay, number one, do you know her? And number two, who talks like that? Irascible? Really?”

“It means —”

“I know what it means,” she said with impatience as she interrupted him. “It’s just that no one really speaks like that anymore. Most people would just say grumpy or cranky or bitchy.”

“I can see that standards for vocabulary have declined in America since my time.”

She thought about that for a moment taking into consideration slang and modern day text speech using only letters. “Yeah,” she said, “I suppose they have.”

“And as to your first question, no, I’ve not been to this institution before. As I alluded to before, we were given this territory because of your familiarity with it. Have you been here before?”

“Once,” she replied. “When I was about seventeen I came here with some friends. We didn’t stay here long.” More would have been said but the door being pushed open cut off any more discussion. Their attention became focused on sizing up the team that was lugging equipment in.

The first person through the door was a mountain of a man with black hair that was graying at the temples. He wore glasses over watery blue eyes. He was followed by a far more athletic man who looked like he was young enough to still be in college who was lugging in coils of cords over his shoulders and had a case in each hand. Two more people followed them in. One was a woman who seemed to be in her late thirties or early forties with dark brown hair and green eyes. The last was a very tall, thin man with shaggy brown hair and brown eyes as well as a goatee. They both carried in cases and set them down before going back outside to get more equipment.

“Are they here to hunt ghosts or move in?” Cadence asked under her breath to Snow, who chuckled softly in reply.

“You know you don’t have to whisper until they start recording. They can’t see or hear us right now.”

“What about when they get those cameras and audio recorders out and going?”

“Unless you attempt to materialize, which you don’t know how to do yet, they won’t see you at all. And with the audio, as long as you aren’t too close to the recorder or talk too loud, they won’t pick you up. Why don’t you go up and introduce yourself to Miss Jones? See if she can be reasonably spoken with.”

“Alright. What about you?”

“I’ll follow them. I’m sure I’ll be meeting up with you soon. Especially if Mr. Suarez is right and Miss Jones is the reason they are here. Otherwise, keep her as calm as you can until I come for you. Do you think you can manage?”

“I’m on it,” she said. Since she couldn’t teleport herself around yet, she was forced to go the mundane route and took the stairs up to the second floor.

As she reached the second floor, she began to feel like her vision was swimming. The decrepit, abandoned hospital kept disappearing to be replaced by images of a cleaner, brighter, and more functioning hospital. She wished Snow was there so she could ask him about it. It was disorienting at the very least and a glimpse into the past at best. It didn’t take her long to figure out which room was Ruby’s. She could hear the yelling from the top of the stairs. She followed the sound of the voice to room 219, where Ramon was waiting outside the door.

“I know you’re out there, you little piss-ant,” an old woman’s voice yelled from within the room. “What’s the matter, Ramon? Don’t feel like getting beat up by a woman today? Don’t want to hit back today?” she asked.

Ramon looked almost stricken. “I never …” he began to say to Cadence and she shook her head.

“Didn’t think you had,” she said in order to reassure him. “I’ve got this. Go meet up with Snow downstairs in the lobby. He’s looking after the team.” Ramon nodded and disappeared.

“Jealous.” Cadence sighed at the ease of which Ramon moved around the hospital.

“Where’d you go, you coward?” The old woman shouted from her room. The door was shimmering in and out of existence and Cadence braced herself. She wasn’t sure that the woman was going to behave any better for her than for a man. She took a deep breath, reminding herself to not show fear or inexperience. Confidence and a commanding presence were what she needed to convey to get through just about every situation.

She breezed through the doorway with her head held high. “Miss Jones,” she said as she greeted the woman with a smile. The room swam viciously in her vision until she made the conscious decision to stick with one view. She chose to give in and see it the way Miss Jones would see the room. As it had been when she lived. The walls and floors were whiter and brighter, and there were lights. The bed was made and there was a chair against the wall that seemed like a kind of high chair for adults. The tray was locked in place with a padlock and in the chair sat the diminutive form of Miss Jones. Her wrists strapped down to the arms of the chair.

The woman, had she been alive, looked to have been in her eighties. She had a wrinkled face and deep-set blue eyes that glittered with malice. She had lost her teeth and so her mouth was crabbed and clenched in a grimace. Her eyes narrowed as she regarded Cadence.

“I don’t know you, girly,” she stated. Cadence was relieved that the volume had at least lowered a bit with her presence.

“No, you don’t. I’m Libby Riley, an administrator here,” she said, using her middle name, instead of her first. She didn’t know why but instinct told her to hide her first, more unusual name. If her gut bothered to tell her something, she usually went with it.

“What do you want with me?” she asked, a dangerous edge to her voice.

“I just want to talk, Miss Jones.”

“Are you going to untie me?”

“Maybe, but from what I’ve heard you’ve not been very nice to some of the employees here. People who just want to help you.”

“They’re useless. They never do anything right. I’ve got more anything in my pinky finger than the whole bunch of those stupid assholes does.”

“A woman doesn’t get to your age without having a whole ocean of knowledge and talent and drive to draw from.” Cadence complimented her in the hopes of getting her to be calm and reasonable. She had a plan of attack for this particular job. She just hoped that she would be allowed to carry it out without much complication. “Where were you born?”

“Wisconsin,” she said, sitting up a little bit more in the chair. Cadence grabbed a chair that was in the corner of the room for visitors and dragged it over. For a moment, she wondered if she would be able to sit in it or not, whether or not it actually existed in the real world. At that moment, the room wavered back and forth from the room that Miss Jones occupied, to the abandoned room in the derelict building. She closed her eyes a moment and reminded herself to be where Miss Jones was, and when she opened her eyes, the room was back in full view, white and clean.

“You okay girly? Look a bit green.”

“I’m alright, thank you,” she said as she sat down in the chair. “What did you do in Wisconsin?” Cadence was relieved that her plan was working so far. She got the old woman talking about her past, picking up stories of old friends, family, and sweethearts. She encouraged the woman to talk and tell all the stories she wanted. If there was a lull in the conversation Cadence made sure to ask more questions. They spent about an hour and a half there with Cadence asking her to tell story upon story of her life. When she heard the team come up to the second floor, she let Ruby finish the story she was telling, and then she changed direction.

“Miss Jones, do you know what is going on here today?”

“No, what?” she asked.

“The hospital is being inspected.”

Ruby’s eyes narrowed again. “Is that why you come in here all nice like? You want ole Ruby to keep quiet about all the mean faggots you got working over here?”

“No Miss Jones. I actually wanted to talk to you like we’ve been doing, and I want to continue for a while. You’ve had a very interesting life; someone should write a book about you. Or better yet a movie, who would you want to play you in a movie?”

“Elizabeth Taylor,” she answered without hesitation.

Cadence thought the fact that Taylor was dead was a moot point. “Excellent, there is no one like her on stage and she has a great presence, just like you. But you know what she would do now?”

Ruby seemed mollified by the fact the Cadence hadn’t argued with her choice. “No, what?”

“She would be very quiet for the inspectors so they would not come in this room.”

“And why should I?” she asked, her back straightening, her jaw getting set into a defiant look once again.

“Because.” She leaned forward to whisper conspiratorially. “They’re men. Men, who would come in here and not even see you or pay attention to you. And I don’t want that to happen. I want them to just pass this room by because you deserve the peace and quiet. You’ve earned it. Now, why don’t you quietly tell me about your son?”

Cade could see Osmond outside the door, out of Ruby’s view. He nodded, acknowledging the fact that Cadence had managed to keep Ruby quiet all this time. Now they were both crossing their fingers that she could be placated into remaining so.

Ramon was there too with someone whom Cadence assumed was another spirit. She didn’t recognize him as one of the investigators. The two of them started making noise and darting here and there. They were making passes around and through the investigators which set off their instruments, filling the hall with a cacophony of beeps and alarms. They were trying to draw the investigators down the hall and away from Ruby’s room.

The overweight investigator was holding both a camera and some kind of device that was apparently taking measurements. At least, that’s what Cadence thought the device was doing since the man kept calling out number variances to the others. He paused though and looked to the college aged guy. “Derrick be a sport and go into 219. I want you to try EVP and the infrared camera. I want to continue going down this hallway since there seems to be some activity down here.”

The investigator named Derrick nodded and Cadence’s heart sank. They were sending a guy in. If Ruby saw him, she would start screaming. Crap. She looked to Snow helplessly and he just gave her a nod then turned to follow Ramon. Well double crap, she thought, she was on her own.

She turned back to Ruby and saw the old woman eyeing her suspiciously. “They’re making an awful lot of noise out there for people supposed who are supposed to be quiet,” she said.

“They are showing the inspectors how poorly sound proofed the rooms are. We’re trying to get added insulation so you all aren’t bothered by sounds from the nurse’s stations and such.” She pulled the chair closer to Ruby. “Now why don’t we whisper so that we don’t disturb their demonstration?”

The suspicion in the elderly woman’s eyes did not abate. “If you want to show them how much sound carries around here I could just start yelling.”

“But then they would come in here,” she replied, somewhat relieved that Ruby hadn’t yet seen the ghost hunter that was already in the room. She was not however thrilled with the fact that the woman was starting to work herself up again. It had been going so well. “And I know you aren’t comfortable around men. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable, Miss Jones.”

“Then untie me from the chair!” Her voice rose as Derrick set the digital recorder on the tray of the feeding chair that Ruby was tied to. And that’s when the house of cards Cadence had been building crashed in flames.

The image of Ruby’s room vanished and was completely replaced by the building as it was now. Ruby stared at the recording device, then at the man who placed it there, then at Cadence. The old woman shook with rage. Ruby tried to use what little leeway she had with her bonds to lash out at Cadence. Cadence sprang to her feet and ducked out of the way of Derrick, narrowly missing him. The force of Ruby’s lunge caused the chair, the real chair, to move a little bit. Derrick looked shocked for a second, but recovered quickly and grabbed the camera, taking pictures of the chair and the room.

“You fucking bitch!” Ruby screamed. “You tricked me! You let me loose this minute, you skinny little bitch!” Her hard eyes glittered with unconcealed rage as they turned to the man. “And you,” she said, her voice trembling with rage growled, “you cock sucking homo! Get out of my room or so help me I’ll make you bleed.”

To feel for cold spots Derrick, unfortunately, put his hand too close to Ruby. Her hand angled up and she managed to scratch the young man on the arm. “Ow!” he exclaimed, flinching back and inspecting the two newly formed red lines running down his arm.

Snow ran into the room and Cadence looked at him helplessly having completely lost control of the situation. She was in over her head now and knew it and she was pissed off about it.

“Can you tell me your name?” Derrick asked. The poor man was completely unaware of the chaos taking place around him.

“I don’t have to tell you my name. You don’t get to know crap about me you coward,” Ruby replied, but thankfully didn’t scream.

“Miss Jones, I think you ought to just not answer the man,” Ramon suggested as he came in as well.

“How many spirits are here in this room?” Derrick continued after a lengthy pause.

“FOUR!” Ruby screamed, mostly to spite Ramon. Snow ushered Ramon out into the hall then returned and came close, but not too close, to Ruby.

“Thank you, Ruby,” he smiled coldly to her. That caused the old woman to stop, and regard him a moment.

“Are you trapped here?” the ghost hunter asked but right now none of the ghosts in the room were paying attention to him.

“Thank me? For what?” she asked suspiciously, and in a much quieter tone.

“Thank you for yelling. You see, Miss Riley here was indeed trying to keep you quiet. Ramon and I, however? We want you to scream your head off,” he growled. “Nothing makes us happier than hearing how angry and miserable you are, you old witch. So go on. Yell and scream until the walls crumble down. Your anger and misery are the things we thrive on.”

“What do you want?” Derrick asked.

Cadence blinked in shock at the change in her new partner. Gone was the unassuming and proper Englishman. There was a hard edge to his voice, and his eyes were almost as hate filled as Ruby’s. The two stared each other down for a moment. There was a cruel smile on Snow’s face and uncertainty in Ruby’s. The old woman looked to Cadence and for her part, Cade nodded.

“I’m sorry Miss Jones,” she said sadly. “I was just trying to help protect you from them.” She shrugged helplessly as she played her part in the good cop/bad cop routine.

Ruby Jones looked between Cadence and Snow. She then slumped back in her chair. She was angry but apparently not about to give the men the satisfaction that they wanted. “Well… you’re a good girl, Libby.” She gave Osmond a venomous look and turned her head decidedly away from him. She then faded from view.

Cadence gave Osmond a quizzical look. Snow gestured for Cadence to follow him from the room and she did so. As they left Ruby’s room, she noted that Ramon and the other spirit she had seen before were down the hall a little ways. They were keeping an eye on the female member of the ghost hunting team. Ramon nodded to Snow, an indication that all was well within control there. Snow nodded back and then led Cadence back down the stairs to where the ghost hunter group had set up their so-called base camp. There was one person there, the tall one with the goatee. He was watching some monitors that had been hooked up but there was no one there that was actively investigating the lobby.

“I’m sorry,” she said to Snow before he could even turn around and look at her. When he did, there was surprise on his face.

“Sorry for what?”

“For losing control of the situation up there.”

Snow shook his head. “Actually, you did better than I would have thought. You found a way to get to her. You were able to keep her calm for a very long time. From what Ramon tells me, the last officers were unable to control her. That’s why the legend of her haunting has become such a tale. She is what made Lexington Hills infamous for being haunted. You managed to accomplish what they could not.”

“Not entirely. I may have kept her calmer longer, but when it counted, I couldn’t keep her in line.”

“Cadence, would you please relax? And here I thought I was supposed to be the uptight one in this partnership. Miss Jones did far less acting out than she usually does according to Ramon. And honestly, when hunters come here they are expecting to get some evidence because of what has gone on here before. We also don’t yet know what evidence they have exactly. So why don’t we simply wait and see before you panic?”

“Wait and see?”

“Oh yes,” he nodded. “This is only the first part of the case so to speak. Next comes something I’m sure you’ll be very familiar with. We go on a stakeout.”

“A stakeout? Really?” she asked as she crossed her arms over her chest. “How does that even work?”

Snow shrugged. “We follow them to wherever it is they intend to examine their footage, photos, and recorded tapes. We watch and listen in as they review what they have to make sure that nothing truly out of the ordinary… well, as concerns us… was caught.”

“What about the chair moving and everything Ruby was screaming?”

“The boy had only a still camera and a digital recorder. So it is very unlikely he has any actual images of the chair moving. As for Ruby’s yelling, well it depends. We’ll have to see what was caught.”

“What was with her disappearing like that?”

“When spirits cause a physical disruption, as she did by scratching the boy and making the chair jump, it drains them. So she has depleted her energy and will likely remain in a kind of sleeping state until tomorrow.”

“Why was she cuffed to the chair?”

“I think because she murdered Ramon. She spent a good deal of her last days tethered to it for the employees’ safety.”

“Yeah, I get that. Ramon talked about that. But she’s dead now. She shouldn’t need to ask me to untie her from the chair. She should just be able to get up, right?”

“It’s all about your state of mind and how you perceive yourself as being. She likely perceives her existence like that because she spent so much time there in life.”

“So if I perceived myself in a cop car or hand cuffed I would be?”

“If you believed it strongly enough, but please don’t experiment right now. I’m not sure what physical reactions a sudden manifestation of a police cruiser might have.” He offered her a smile and a quick wink to show he was teasing and was rewarded when she smiled back.

They were interrupted by the sound of feet descending the main staircase to the lobby. Derrick, whom Cadence noticed looked about the same age her brother had been when he died, was coming downstairs. He was accompanied by the overweight investigator and the lone woman on the team, who seemed to be paying more attention to her camera than anything else.

“How’s it going?” asked the shaggy-haired late twenty-something man seated at the bank of glowing computer monitors.

“Hey Aiden, pretty good,” the overweight one replied. “Lauren’s camera battery drained suddenly, however, and Derrick got scratched.”

Derrick reached out and presented his arm to Aiden. Aiden turned on a flash light and illuminated the two angry red scratches on Derrick’s forearm. “Nice,” Aiden commented. “You get pics already?”

“I took them,” Lauren said as she set about replacing her battery pack.

“So what now Dan?” Aiden asked. He looked over to the overweight man. “Keep going or pack it up?”

“Well the place is definitely active, but since we have a minor injury, I want to make sure Derrick is okay. We can come back again. It’s not like this place is going anywhere.”

“Dan, I’m alright, it’s just a scratch,” Derrick said in protest.

“I know you are, and I know it is just a scratch. But this is a big place, and it’s already proven it has a bite to it. I don’t want anyone getting hurt worse, either by spirit or by the mundane. This place isn’t in the best repair, and it is getting late,” he said.

Aiden nodded and the group began to pack up. After a while, the cords were all coiled back up and all the equipment was back in the cases. As Derrick and Lauren took things out to the van, Aiden moved over to Dan.

“I’ll take it all back to my place and go over it. I have the next couple of days off from work. I’ll let you know if we get anything.”

Dan, the hefty leader of the group, nodded. “Sounds good to me.”

Snow motioned Cadence to follow him and they both moved outside of the hospital to the van the group was using. Snow got in and motioned for Cadence to as well. “We’ll hitch a ride since this is going to take us to that one man’s place.”

“Aiden,” Cadence reminded him. “His name is, Aiden.”

“Do this long enough Cadence and you’ll stop trying to remember everyone’s names,” he said as he took a seat in the back of the van.

“Mental right?” she asked, looking at the van apprehensively. “Just believe that you won’t go through the van, right?”

Osmond smiled and nodded. “Right.”

Cadence took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then climbed in. She was very relieved when she didn’t sink through the floor of the vehicle and back onto the broken pavement of what remained of the hospital’s driveway.

Snow chuckled softly and shook his head. They settled into the back of the van amidst the equipment and went off with the oblivious group of hunters.

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