There was a weird pressure shift and when Cadence opened her eyes, they were standing in the open area, with people at their monitors, in front of their office door. No one seemed to look up or even take notice of their arrival. Cadence blinked a few times, feeling a bit dizzy.
“You’ll get used to it,” Snow said. “But I know it’s very disorienting the first few times you do it by yourself.” He turned and opened the door to their office.
“You could say that,” she said. She followed him into the office and eagerly sank down into her chair. “So the case is over, right? Or is there more? And by the way, what the hell is that room out there called?”
“That’s the observation bay.”
“Observation bay? You have a whole office full of people just watching for people playing with Ouija boards? Seems excessive. Or do they do something else?”
“Some of them watch out for people using Ouijas and other communication devices, yes. Others are dedicated to watching haunted locations that have only one haunting spirit. With no monitor in those places, we need to have eyes on them. Still others monitor the living, more importantly, those who are likely to be of use here in the afterlife.”
“Those people who would be of use in the afterlife? People like me?”
“Yes,” he said. “People like you.”
“Wait. There were people out there who were charged with watching me? Like spying on me or guardian angel type watching over me? Because I have to tell you, neither answer is going to make me particularly happy.”
“You wouldn’t be happy with a guardian angel?”
“Considering I’m dead? No.”
“Then I suppose you can relax because, to use your term, it was more the spying type.”
“That doesn’t make me very happy either. When were they watching me?”
“It depended really, though mostly when you were working.”
“Cadence what’s bothering you so much? You’ve been pricklier than a porcupine since we left the asylum.”
“The idea that some weirdo could have been watching me in the shower or on the toilet or something even more private is a little troublesome,” she said.
“Well rest assured nothing like that happens. During a person’s more… private… times we leave them alone and unwatched.”
Cadence still didn’t look happy, but she settled down a bit. He watched her for a moment, debating what to do. She’d had her initial cry after saying goodbye to her former partner, but since then she had clamped down on her emotions hard. She had focused on trying to adjust and learn her new role. Originally he had thought that was all well and good, but now he realized maybe it wasn’t. Maybe she still had some things to deal with that she was ignoring. Things that were apparently still eating away at her. But until he could figure out the best way to approach it he supposed it was best to just continue on.
“Now to answer your other question, the next step is the same as it was in life.”
“No. No way.”
“There’s paperwork in the afterlife?” she asked.
“Indeed,” Snow said. His sigh echoed her sentiment for the chore.
“You’re sure this isn’t hell?”
He chuckled and pulled two files from his desk and passed one over to her. “You’ll find pens in your center desk drawer.”
She grumbled something that was mercifully incoherent and opened the drawer. “I don’t get coffee, but I have to do paperwork. This sucks.”
Snow chuckled. They started in on the files. The paperwork was required because there needed to be a record of what transpired during the case and what evidence was captured by the breathers. How detailed the report became depended on how successful the living was at capturing proof of the ghosts. Snow and Cadence sat at their desks bent over their files. They had been working for about twenty minutes when they were interrupted by a knock on their door. It swung open before either of them had the chance to say anything. In the doorway loomed a large, muscular, bearded man. He was easily over six feet and built like a football linebacker. Osmond got to his feet with a broad smile on his face.
“Alistair,” he greeted the bald man. He crossed the small space between the desk and the door and shook the newcomer’s hand heartily. Cadence recognized the name as Osmond’s old mentor and partner so she too got to her feet.
“Sorry for the interruption my friend but I couldn’t resist the urge to meet your new partner.” Alistair spoke with a heavy accent that sounded almost like cockney.
“Of course. Alistair Croft, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Cadence Riley.”
Cade strode forward and offered her hand to him. Alistair took it and kissed the back of it, and Snow had to suppress the urge to chuckle at Alistair’s use of old world manners on his very modern partner. Cade, for her part, looked awkward and embarrassed. “Um, nice to meet you.”
“Ah! American! Good, I’m glad they gave you someone with fire in them, Osmond.”
“She does seem to have plenty of that.”
“Yes, I’ve heard about how you two handled yourselves at Lexington. You both did a very good job.”
“How did you hear?” Osmond asked, surprised that someone of Croft’s rank would have heard about their investigation, let alone how that investigation went before they even filed the paperwork.
“Well, I watched, of course. Had to see how the two of you got on together.”
“You set that up didn’t you?” Snow asked. He knew that Alistair had far more important things to do than just watch other officers work.
He had the grace to look a bit embarrassed. “Let’s just say I put a bug in the ear of that Daniel fellow to go check out Lexington. Thought it would make a good first run for you two. You did me proud, Osmond. You as well Detective Riley. Quick on your marks, you are. Very good, very good. Well, I won’t keep you. I know you’ve got work to get on with.” Alistair turned and left, closing the door behind him.
Cadence turned to Osmond, mouth open, the look on her face somewhere between stunned and confused. “So he set us up?” she finally asked.
“He set the case up, yes. It would seem I was being tested as much as you were.”
Cadence shook her head. “Well hell, if they watched it all, why are we doing paperwork?”
Snow chuckled. “Nice try. Set up or not it was still a case. We still have to record what went on.”
“Shit.” She sighed, and sat back down, picking up her pen once more. A half an hour later she passed her file with completed paperwork over to Snow. Leaning back in her chair, she rubbed her wrist, more out of habit than any actual pain. “Yep, paperwork still sucks.”
Osmond chuckled as he finished his. “Indeed. Why don’t you wait here? I’ll go turn these in.” She nodded her agreement and he got up and left with the files. Cadence leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes for a moment. Then she opened them and looked at the map on the wall. A thought occurred to her and she opened her desk drawer.
And there, just what she was looking for, a case of push pins. “Huh… Guess there really is something to this whole mental image thing.” She grabbed the case and opened it, taking out a green push pin and then faced the map. She found the area that Lexington Hills was and sunk the push pin into the paper. Then she took a blue push pin and found where Aiden’s neighborhood was. Glad that she had paid attention to the street signs and direction they had traveled in when they rode in the van to his house, she pushed the pin into that spot. A ghost hunter marked by blue, a haunt marked by green. For now, it would do.
Her eyes ran over the map, going over streets and locations. She paused over places she knew, idly wondering if perhaps they harbored ghosts somewhere in them. Eventually, her eyes fell on the university. She frowned.
“Sam,” she said. Her voice was soft and sad as she reached out and touched the spot on the map. “Are you there?” She didn’t even realize that she had wondered that out loud until she heard Snow answer her.
“That’s not an area we have to go to yet, Cadence. And we won’t. Not until we get a call to.”
“I explained this to you before. You’re not ready.”
She hadn’t taken her eyes from the map when he had entered, but she did now, turning to look at him. “How am I not ready? He died nine years ago. I’ve dealt with it.”
“You may have dealt with it, but you are also still dealing with losing your own life.”
“And so that prevents me from going to the college?”
“When the college is your own Alma mater, as well as, where your younger brother lost his life, yes. It’s best for a while that you be removed from the things that remind you of your mortal life unless the job requires you to be there. You’re also not allowed to go to your apartment building or the police precinct yet. And for the same reason.”
“Yeah but we aren’t talking about the station or my apartment building. Osmond please, I just need to know. I never used to think that ghosts were real. I thought when he died he went to heaven or whatever else there was out there in the great beyond. But now that I know better, I need to know. Is he a ghost now?”
“And why are you so focused on him? Why not your father? He died a violent death too. Or your mother? Her sudden stroke? Why are you so focused on if your brother is out there somewhere haunting?”
“My father died in the war, in the middle east. He told me any day you wake up and get to go back to bed at the end of it was a good one. I always figured he was prepared to go. Mom had been sick, she’d had surgery. The stroke was a risk of the surgery and both she and I knew it. Both of those situations are different. They were my parents, yes, but he was my brother. He was my best friend from the time he was born. I’m pretty damn sure my parents have moved on. Him I’m not so sure of.”
“It’s natural for you to want to make sure your loved ones are alright, and they are, I assure you.”
“But assuring me that they are alright isn’t answering my question. He is, isn’t he? He’s still there. That’s why you are avoiding the question. That’s why you avoided it before when I asked if any of my family were ghosts. At first, I thought it was that you simply didn’t know, but now I can see that you do actually know. That’s why we won’t be going there. It has absolutely nothing to do with me being ready or not. It has to do with him being there. Am I right?”
He sighed and clenched his jaw, looking away. Cadence’s eyes dropped, knowing she had her answer. She looked back to the map, turning her back on Snow, eyes riveted to the spot of the map where the university stood. Finally, she selected a yellow push pin and stuck it in there. She then turned and stormed out of the office.
It was quiet in her new apartment. After the argument with Snow about her brother, she had just needed to go home. She had needed to get away from him. They had been working for 24 hours together and she needed a break. With nowhere else to turn, she simply wandered back to her apartment. Now she was beginning to wonder if it had been a smart idea.
It was quiet. Too quiet. No city noises, no radio, no television. The silence left her alone with just her thoughts. That was not likely to lead to good things. She paced the apartment, too restless to just sit down. She wanted to yell, to scream and throw things. But the adult part of her knew that a temper tantrum would accomplish nothing. She had been awake for a long time, but she wasn’t tired, and, of course, she wasn’t hungry or thirsty either. There was nothing to do to distract her from her emotions. The lack of things to do was just as frustrating as having no one to talk to.
A soft knock sounded on her door and she closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. The only person it could be was Snow and she wasn’t sure she wanted to see him right now. She ignored it.
The knock sounded again, followed by his voice. “Look, I can hear you fuming from here. I know you’re in there. If you’d just open the door, I think you’ll be happy you did.”
She sighed and debated just to continue ignoring him. Then it occurred to her that maybe he had brought her brother to her, or was going to bring her to him. Maybe he just wanted to talk, and at this point, she was ready for a distraction from doing nothing. She went to the door and opened it. Snow stood there patiently and extended his cell phone to her. “You have a call.”
She opened the door wider and let him in, taking the phone as he handed it to her. “Hello?”
That single word in her brother’s voice brought tears to her eyes. The floodgates of emotions she had been keeping such a tight lid on opened and tears fell freely from her eyes. His voice, in just that single word, brought back vivid images of what he had looked like when he had lived as well as the terrible emotions of when he had died.
“Sam,” she said. She tried to control the trembling of her voice and failed as the tears began rolling down her cheeks.
“God, Cade, I’m so sorry you’re on this side.” It sounded like he was crying too. “But I’m real proud of you. I always knew you’d be a hell of a cop.”
“I’m sorry you’re stuck,” she said. She wondered for a brief moment how he had known what she had gone on to do. Then she realized that he likely had his own version of the television set that sat dark in her living room. He had been watching over her.
“No, don’t be. I’m not stuck. I made the choice to stay. I’m good. And your partner there says we’ll be able to get together eventually. I know it’s got to be hell for you right now but hang in there, sis. Just hold on and we’ll be able to get together real soon, okay?”
“Sam...” They had always been each other’s best friend, they always had each other’s backs, and they had always been able to be themselves with each other. With him she felt she would not have to be strong for once. “I don’t know…”
He cut her off. “Yes you do, and yes you can. You were always strong, Cade. You were strong enough to fight Dad when he went nuclear about you becoming a cop. You were strong enough to fight back against those guys in the Academy when they thought you were some weak chick they could push around. You’re strong enough to fight this too. I know how hard this is, but it gets better. Once you get your phone, we’ll be able to talk more. Just hang in there and don’t let this get the best of you. I love you, sis.”
“I love you too, Sam.”
He didn’t say goodbye; he just hung up. That had always been his way, he never said goodbye. She slowly sat down on the couch, the phone in her hand, her other hand covering her face as she cried. Snow simply sat in the arm chair facing her, letting her finally have her cry out. He wanted to go over and help her, comfort her, but he knew that would likely only make her clamp down again and stifle the emotions she had to get through to accept her situation here. After a while, he went to a closet by the front door and pulled a box of tissues and a waste basket from it. He set the basket down by her, and the tissues on the coffee table. He then resumed his seat in the arm chair.
It took about half an hour for her to calm down enough to reach for the tissues. Another few minutes were spent blowing her nose and reigning in control of herself before she could look at him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to have a meltdown in front of you.”
He waved a hand dismissively. “If you think I didn’t have one or two myself when I was new you’re mistaken. In fact, I managed to completely trash my flat once, throwing things about I was so angry. Cadence, I do understand. I know you think I don’t, that it’s been so long I’ve forgotten, but I haven’t.”
She nodded and slid the phone across the coffee table to him. “Here, this is yours. Thank you for that. I needed that. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to hear him. He sounded good.” She paused and chuckled, shaking her head. “It seems really strange and wrong to say that since he’s dead.”
“He is doing very well. He’s the monitor for the dorm where he was killed. I doubt I’m supposed to tell you that, but then I wasn’t supposed to arrange for the phone call either.” The phone call had been highly against the rules and he knew it. However, when they had the argument in the office, it had occurred to him. Her brother would be able to get through to her when no one else could. She had seemed so stuck on needing to know he was okay. Maybe now she would be able to accept this life, such as it was.
“Well thank you. I appreciate it and I’m sorry for being such a bitch earlier. I’m assuming he’s been watching me? He knew about the fight with Dad, which happened after he died. He also knew about stuff that happened at the Academy.”
Snow gestured to the television set which sat unused. “I’m sure he watched over you when he could.”
She smiled a little. It made her feel better, a little closer to her brother. It made her feel a little more whole. “I’m really sorry I went off on you at the office. I know you have rules you have to go by.”
“Doesn’t mean either of us have to like them,” he said. “Hence my calling your brother as I did. I’d dare say it worked, too.”
“Yes. You weren’t dealing with your feelings.”
“I’m a cop, Ozzie. Warm and fuzzy isn’t my thing.”
“Truly? Or are you clinging to a tough girl stereotype that helped you get through some very trying times? Cadence you can be tough all you want. In life you were able to go back to your room, or your home, and curl up and cry about it. You hadn’t let yourself do that yet. You were clinging to our job, your boredom, and other small details as things to be angry and frustrated about. You had to stop doing that and start dealing with being you and all that entails. Facades are useless here, and I know you are so used to living behind one that this makes you uncomfortable. You had to come out from behind your wall and face your emotions. All of them.”
“So you used my brother against me, in effect.” There was no anger or venom in her voice as she stated it.
“In a way, yes, I did. It became clear to me as you were going on about how important he was to you that if anyone was going to knock through those walls of yours, it would be him. And it worked. Congratulations, you’re beginning to accept things now.”
“I wasn’t before?”
“Well after the whole candid camera bit where I ended up having to yell at you to get you to see reason you did, in a way. But mentally accepting something and emotionally doing so are two different things. Even after Andrew, you cried for a moment but then you found you could concentrate on work and so you simply closed down.”
“So you had to do something to kick me in the ass.”
“Your words not mine,” he replied, but he did smile a little.
She tossed the used tissues into the waste basket and sighed. “Well, thanks. I actually do feel a bit better.”
Snow nodded. “I’m glad. Now get some rest. I’ll meet you at the office tomorrow.” He rose to his feet and grabbed his phone from the coffee table. He offered her a smile and a salute before letting himself out the door. In the quiet that followed, Cadence fell easily asleep on her couch.