EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE - APRIL 2015
As The Talking Heads would’ve said back in my era, today was totally Same as it ever was…Same as it ever was…
What I mean was that I, Jensen Murphy, was once again haunting someone who’d turned out to be guiltier than hell after all the investigating we spirits had done on her.
This human’s name was Julia and, right now, I was hovering over her head as she sat in front of a fritzing computer in her home. She was madly pecking at the keyboard, dressed in a silk robe that kept falling off one shoulder. Also, she hadn’t combed her hair since my two spirit friends and I had been keeping her awake these past couple of days and nights with spooky sounds, ambient smells, and creepy sights, pushing her to eventually tell us the truth about the crime she’d been suspected of.
Murder. Yup, I could definitely call her a killer now, seeing as I’d also gone into her thoughts and her dreams to see what her psyche could show me. And it’d been totally telling.
While I hovered, my friends Louis and Petty Officer Randy Randall came to float on the other side of her. The computer went even more static-y because of all the ghost energy. It was obvious that she could sense us by now; I could hear her heartbeat slamming through the room while she typed, accessing the Internet about—what do you know?—ghosts.
What were the signs that your house was haunted? What should you do?
But she was standing her ground, like a lot of human dipthwacks who committed murder did. Thank God it was time to close this case right now, before she found out how to call in a cleaner to chase us off.
“Ready to end this?” I asked Louis and Randy.
“You jus’ go ‘head,” Randy said lethargically.
Louis was just as rah-rah. “The honors are all yours.”
Damn it, I’d brought the guys along to cheer them up and get rid of the ultra boredom that’d been weighing them down. Haunting had always been a rush for us, but not so much lately.
Since I didn’t have time to dwell on their lack of oomph, I pulled energy from the atmosphere, concentrating, filling the room with the aroma of a phantom dinner coming from the kitchen. And this was just the wind-up for what I ultimately wanted from Julia.
A confession to the killing.
The room smelled like meatloaf, the kind Julia’s sister, Rosilee, used to make one weekend a month when Julia and their brother Victor used to go over to Rosilee’s for family time. But that was before Julia had dosed their water with hard-to-trace ricin and quietly “nursed” them herself until she “found” them both at Rosilee’s home and hysterically brought them to the hospital, only “too late.”
Poor Julia. She was now the only sibling alive for a modest family inheritance that’d be released from its trust next year.
Now, as Julia sat up in her chair and sniffed the air, Randy changed his mind about getting in on the action and settled on top of a piano near the computer, at least trying to put some effort into the haunting.
“Thass right, lady, take a good whuff of what we got for ya.”
His eternally drunk slur only added to his comic appearance, what, with his 1940s sailor hat tilted on his head and his white uniform touched with ghost-gray. He was smiling in that endearing crooked-teeth, pug-nose way he had, too. But it wasn’t the smile that’d grown on me over the past few months, after Amanda Lee had pulled me out of my time loop in Elfin Forest, where I’d been in a perpetual state of shock ever since being murdered there. It was goofy, fun Randy himself.
Louis, who was still floating aimlessly, seemed even extra bummed out today. Just at the sight of him, my pseudo-heart sank. A black man in a World War II-era factory uniform, still on the fringes of the group. His complexion was wan from the sun that struggled through a window and permeated his form.
At least he was engaged enough to have a faint smile on his face as he watched Julia frowning and gazing around the room. It was like he was thinking, Yes, you piece of filth, remember that night when you served meatloaf along with that ricin cocktail…?
Oh, I was sure Julia was remembering, all right. I’d told her dead sister and brother when they’d come to me and begged for help that I would get her to this point. As new ghosts, they’d suspected her of the crime but hadn’t known all the tricks to find out for sure. Also, they hadn’t exactly wanted to put her through a haunting themselves if, for some reason, she was innocent.
All they wanted from her was a confession and the promise of justice, and then they could rest in peace. Lucky dogs.
Julia slowly got up from her computer chair, her hand to her chest, her fingers clutching the robe shut. She warily walked to the kitchen where the smell was coming from.
Randy glanced at me, and I jerked my chin toward her. Go for it!
I could see his decision play out on his expressive face—to keep haunting or not to haunt, that was the question. And it dragged me down again, because Randy and Louis had never been like this. Not until they’d been attacked by that dark sprit—
Without warning, Randy zoomed away from the computer, catching up to Julia, and I almost did a fist pump. But Louis stayed put, resting his chin in his hand and going to float-sit on the top of a recliner.
I gave him a defeated look, and he sighed. The sound traveled the air like a vibrating cuff of wind. Near the kitchen, Julia whipped around to see what was going on. Randy was right behind her, hesitating again.
Could my partners be bigger wastoids right now?
Julia was starting to get scared, so I guessed that meant I could start feeding off her fear. Finally.
I culled her cold emotion, plus more energy from the atmosphere itself. I put both together, creating a sound that was sure to scare her…
A person gasping for breath, like someone in the room was dying.
As Julia grasped the counter next to her, I added a wail that resembled her brother’s voice for good measure, then spread my hands out to my friends.
“Seriously, you guys?”
“I jus’ don’t have it in me,” Randy said.
Louis merely sighed again.
Julia was starting to shiver. “Hello? Who’s there?”
Almost as a consolation to me, Randy halfheartedly groaned behind her, and she spun on her heels toward him, her hand to her throat. Randy was this close to being his old perky self, and I motioned for him to sound off again.
He complied. “Groooooaaan!”
Awesome! Her fear was tickling me.
I turned to Louis. “Now your turn. Let’s finish this!”
Julia was peering around, just like a frightened bird.
Louis ran a hand over his short, dark hair. “You’ll get this done without me. Go on.”
Randy stopped groaning. “Shame here, Jen. I jus’ need…” He slumped toward the ground. “Shome rest.”
“Oh no you don’t.” I sped over to him, creating a whoosh of air that lifted Evil Julia’s brown hair off her back. She squeaked and fell to the linoleum floor.
“Hello!” she said again, fright sawing her voice.
Out of patience, I gestured toward the TV near the computer, drawing more energy from the air and making the screen come alive with a fleeting image of Victor’s and Rosilee’s faces, just a flash of horrifying mouths opened in silent screams.
It disappeared with an electric whine, but it was enough to make Julia gasp and huddle into herself.
“Come on, you duds!” I yelled at Louis and Randy, on a fear-high now. “Let me see the justice-seeking ghosts I’ve come to know and love!”
“I…dunno,” Randy said, sinking to the counter, where he hovered just over the surface. “This is takin’ a whole lot outta me.”
“So exhausted,” Louis added. “Inside and out.”
I balled my ghost hands into fists, wishing I could lash out at the dark spirit that’d attacked Louis and Randy when it’d reached into their forms to rip out a slice of their essences. They’d been weak ever since, but even worse, it was like they’d lost more than energy. They’d lost hope, too.
Unfortunately, the dark spirit was more than just your average nuisance—he was actually my unknown murderer who’d been let in through a portal during a séance led by Amanda Lee, and he was out to scare the shit out of me in this dimension. Attacking my friends was only a part of his campaign of continued pain for me.
Great, huh? And all I could really do for my friends was try to liven them up. But clearly, that wasn’t working so well today, so I decided to pull a card from the bottom of my deck to light a few sparks in my partners.
“You’re really going to make me do all this myself?” I even added moony eyes as the guys made that male aw-damn expression that told me the girly act was halfway working.
At the same time, I could see that Julia had started to crawl toward the TV, where she’d witnessed the faces of her victims. She was making sounds like an animal might make when it was caught in a trap.
Finally, Louis said something. “Knock it off, Jensen. Don’t make us feel guilty about leaving this to you.”
“But I need your help.”
Randy let out a restrained guffaw. “Tell us ‘nother one, toots.”
Well, at least I’d tried, but they were so depressed or whatever that a dose of super-pouting hadn’t even worked on them.
Back to haunting then. I waited until Julia got a little closer to Louis and the TV, then gestured to him.
I just had to give it one more try. “Please, Lou?”
When he hung his head then muttered something I didn’t catch, I knew I had him.
He shook his head once before lifting a hand to the TV, causing a burst of screaming and an explosion of gaping mouths and blazing eyes to fill the screen before going black again.
As I clapped in appreciation, Julia screamed, speed-crawling away from the TV until she was behind a chair, taking in chopped breaths, sobbing.
“It’s now or never,” I said. “Finish! This!”
Louis lifted his head so that his dark eyes fixed on me. “Closing is your area of expertise.”
“Amen,” Randy said from the kitchen. His shoulders were slumped, his hat dipped over his brow as his short legs dangled from his seat on the counter.
“My God,” I said. “Well, can you two at least tap into the air to make a call to Amanda Lee while I do this? And make sure you draw a couple neighbors over here pronto. I want them to hear Julia spill her guts.”
Our hauntee was still quaking behind that chair, so I whizzed over to her, ready to close the deal. I lay what passed as a hand for me on the bare skin of her neck, reaching past her flesh and going in for the mental kill.
As I zipped into her superficial thoughts like a greased lightning bolt, I froze her with electricity, lowering her melatonin level and causing a miniseizure while I joined with her fuzzy mind.
I could only slightly guide her thoughts from this point on, and I couldn’t control her reactions to them. After introducing a scary image to her, I wouldn’t be able to control what she encountered next. I would think what she thought, see what she saw, and I had no idea what was in store for me now…
From Every Breath You Take (Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire, Book Three)
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