Maurice (6 & 7)
Behind and above his head Maurice heard the soft tingling sensation of a Spirit Bell speaking. Across his large, spacious office, the second bell answered just as gently. Looking up from the newspaper he was reading a smile played across his lips as the Tammy’s ethereal form came sliding out of a wall and walked into the room. She was dressed in a pair of cut off blue jeans and an oversized sweater with the word WILDCATS splashed across the front in big purple and white letters.
She looked exactly what someone would think of a nineteen-year-old tomboy should look like. Short cut brown hair. Freckles. A slightly up turned nose. And eating an apple. A big, unnaturally red apple half concealing her face as she gnawed on it hungrily.
Randall walked into the office at almost the same time. He glanced to his left and then to his right and then stopped and turned to look at his daughter.
Safe. Found a baby sitter for him. An old fart by the name of Dracul . . . or something like that.
Color drained from Randall’s face as he turned and looked worriedly at Maurice. For his part, rising up from behind his desk and moving around it, even the mystic cherub looked a little worried.
“My dear, he did not say he was Count Dracul from Transylvania, did he?”
Maurice’s frown did not diminish from his features as he sat down on the edge of his desk and looked up at the tall man standing in front of him. For a couple of seconds the two looked at the other with various levels of concern and confusion on their faces before each, at the same time, came up with the same conclusion. Girl and daughter were already dead. What other harm could befall them?
Shrugging shoulders eloquently, the tailored image of Maurice stood up and glanced at the apple-eating ghost.
“We need to begin an intense search for your killer. If Wilbur Harrow is not our man it stands to reason that someone who is familiar with both Harrow and your father is. Harrow clearly did not see your father leave the apartment just after your death. But I suspect he did see someone. Someone he knew. Someone he feels compelled, for one reason or another, to hide his identity and use your father for a scapegoat.”
Tammy lifted a finger up and began writing fire script in the air in front of her.
The asshole, Harrows, will have to talk to this guy sooner or later.
“Precisely,” the smiling lawyer nodded; pleased the young dead girl was getting into her role as a supernatural investigator. “Which is the reason I want you to follow Harrows around and observe his every move for the next twenty four hours. Our killer must be very nervous right now. His plan to frame your father for your murder falling apart has to be putting immense pressure on him to clean up this mess and leave town. I am positive there will be some kind of interaction between him and Harrows shortly. We need to be there to witness and record that event. So off you go! Hurry! Every moment here in the office is time not observing Harrows. Woosh! Woosh! Hurry!”
Tammy grinned, tossed the core of the apple toward the wastebasket setting beside her father’s desk and, taking one step to her left, completely disappeared from view. Maurice, ever smiling, pleased, nodded to himself and turned to stare up into the smirking face of a cynical Randall Cooke.
“Smooth, boss. Very smooth. I couldn’t have done it better myself.”
“Why dear boy, whatever are you talking about?” Maurice chuckled merrily.
“Sending Tammy off to watch Harrows like that. Wilbur Harrows knows who killed Tammy. He’s the weak link the killer has to clean up if he wants to get away with her murder. Meaning he’s got to come back and murder Harrows. You suspect the killer’s actually Harrows cousin, don’t you.”
“Does his cousin look and sound like him? Does he have a raspy voice and calloused hands like Harrows?”
“Spitting images, the two. Vince Harrows and Wilbur look more like twins than cousins. The only difference between the two is Vince doesn’t have half the mean streak as Wilbur has. In prison it was always Wilbur making sure Vince didn’t get the shit beat out of him. I gotta admit, using Tammy’s description of who her killer was, it makes sense it has to be Vince if it wasn’t Wilbur. But on the other hand, it doesn’t make any sense. Vince ain’t the type of guy to just up and kill someone.”
“Hmmm, I was afraid you would say something like that, my boy. Most unfortunate. Hmmm . . . most unfortunate indeed.”
The tall ex-con, the one man in the room who knew how to kill someone in any number of ways . . . who actually had killed a number of people in any number of ways . . . watched with curious interest as the little man slipped hands into the side pockets of his tailored suit coat and screwed up his face into a thoughtful mask. Maurice, for his part, turned and absently walked out of the small office still in deep thought. Cooke followed. Walking across the outer office the tall man kept silent and waited for his employer to say something. He was in no hurry. There was no place for him to go to except here. As far as he was concerned, the boss could take all the time he needed to think things through. Sitting down in a comfortable chair he threw one leg over the other and then put fingertips together, resting elbows on the chair’s armrest, and made himself comfortable.
Two minutes later the smiling counselor came out of his thinking mode and twisted around to look at Cooke.
“Call the prison you two last occupied. See if you can find some information about Wilbur and Vince. Information like who did they hang out with the most while they were there? Were there any confrontations Wilbur and Vince were forced to confront . . . things like that. There has to be a connection there. The prison. I suspect someone is manipulating Vince. And the focal point has to begin at the prison.”
“What do you mean someone has to be manipulating Vince?” the tall man repeated ominously as he came out of his chair slowly. “Does it mean what I think it means?”
“Unfortunately yes, dear boy. I’m afraid it does. Supernatural forces are at play here and I am afraid we may have inadvertently placed Tammy in harm’s way. We must find the nexus of this killer’s motivation before he strikes again. And we must do it quickly!”
Being dead wasn’t all that bad. For one thing, you met the strangest people. Dead people of course. But strange. And so unexpectedly. Take for instance the Apache war party.
She knew the odds were at this time in the morning Wilbur would be in his apartment still asleep. And probably drunk as well. So she began drifting across the city heading for the old apartment building she and her baby had last called home. Being a ghost meant ordinary obstacles like buildings and walls and trees were no longer solid objects to circumnavigate. She sailed along just above the heads of pedestrians walking the sidewalks and above the top of automobiles clogging the city’s main arteries. Or she went through the sides of buses and large eighteen wheeler trailers unaffected and unhindered. Buildings were the same way. She just slide through the brick and concrete and glass as if they were not there.
As she traveled across town she saw thousands of people going about their business. What made it interesting were the ghostly apparitions which followed along with them. It was a startling discovery, soon after her death, to realize all living mortals were irrevocably moored into the afterlife. Entities, and pieces of entities, were permanently attached to every human around her. Sometimes whole strings of entities. Mostly the souls of ancestors, or perhaps the souls of long lost loved ones, hovered near a living human. And most of the time radiating from the dead were emotions of love, warmth, and longing. Longing to be able to reach out and touch the one they had left behind.
But love and longing were not the only emotions she felt as she sped past. Other emotional vibrations, like the strings and chords of a strumming guitar, played her soul as well. Hate being the strongest emotion of all. Hate had this jarring asymmetric crash of discordant chords that were, for a few of the living, were powerful enough to make her wince in pain. But the wall of hate emanating from the Apache war party made Tammy abruptly turn and flee from the scene.
Drifting through an office building she encountered an individual sitting behind a large office desk piled thick with papers and folders. He tie was pulled down and the top button of his shirt was undone. He was resting his head dejectedly in the palm of one hand braced on the desk top. He looked miserable. Filled in pain.
And surrounded by a dozen Apache Indians on horseback. Each Apache warrior’s face was streaked with various fantastic designs of war paint. Each warrior carried by their hips either a spear or a Winchester repeating rifle as they slowly rode across some remote Arizona rocky plateau. From the warriors came the flooding emotions of hate, fear, betrayal, and an unyielding desire for revenge. They kept riding their horses. The rocky terrain they moved across seemed to change ever so slightly. But the image as a whole did not move. The warriors kept riding toward the living human. Each warrior’s dark eyes glued onto the back of the sitting man’s head.
Somehow, somewhere far in the past, an ancestor had done something horrible to these Apache warriors. So horrible in fact the ancestor’s descendants still paid for the horror committed. It was obvious on the man’s face and glowing from the man’s soul that he knew of his ancestor’s horrific deed. Knew he was going to be another figure in his family line to pay the consequences. And there was nothing he could do about it. It was Fate. Karma. And the only thing he could do was endure the suffering.
Tammy fled from the scene. Left as fast as she could speed away. The raw emotions, the power of the discordant flood of feelings, overpowered her. Fear gripped her the moment she first slipped into the man’s office. Fear magnified tenfold when the leading Apache felt her presence and, frowning, turned his dark eyes to stare at her menacingly.
She ran. Splicing through buildings and through brick walls as fast as she could move. She wanted to get as far away from the man and those who tormented him as fast as she could. She had never felt such hatred, such cold intensity, before in her life. So blindly she ran as fast as she could. But in her running, not paying attention to her immediate surroundings.
That’s when the wall of pain and revenge slammed into immortal soul like an immense immovable object impervious to any ghostly attempt to slip away. The sudden sensation of slamming to a halt actually threw her backward and onto her back at the same time. Her face and chest felt like she had been hit with a gigantic hammer. Pain swelled up through her soul and began throbbing in intensity. Half unconscious she somehow opened her eyes and looked up.
And there he was. Her killer. Standing over her with a sneering grin and bright, flaming eyes of fire burning his skull glaring down at her. As she watched, she heard the entity emit a soft chuckle, and then lower his head further down off his shoulders to speak.
“Welcome back, princess. It is sooooooo good to see you again!”