Authors: Audrey Claire
Tags: #Mystery: Paranormal - North Carolina
“I hear tell you’re asking questions about Sadie Barnett’s murder.”
“You are not a police officer, nor have you been appointed to help us in any way.”
I smacked his finger away from my face and drew myself up to my full height, which probably reached his nose. “I have not done anything wrong. I have a right—”
I squeaked when Bart shoved me. For an instant, I lost my concentration, but Monica had grabbed his arm and jerked him around to face her. By the time Bart shook off her hold, I had pulled myself together. Fear crawled up my back at Bart’s violence. Did this mean he had something to do with Sadie’s death? He was no doubt capable of it.
“You must want to lose your job,” Monica snapped at Bart. “I don’t think the chief would like to hear about you treating Libby that way.”
“Are you threatening me?” He rounded on Monica. I panicked, assuming he was about to hurt her in his rage. A quick glance around revealed we were in a spot where a couple of empty storefronts lay, places no one wanted to lease and the businesses that had occupied them previously had moved out of town. I took a chance and fazed into Bart. I only wanted to make him back off, to move on and lose sight of us.
I had promised myself I would never possess a person again. In fact, I had been reluctant to try it in the first place, but Ian had made a good point the day he explained how it worked. He had said if ever Monica or Jake were in trouble, and there was a person around who refused to help, would I possess that person and force them to. I’d known then as I knew now, I would violate any personal moral code to save Monica and Jake.
So I passed into Bart, and just as had happened with Clark the one time I took control of him, I flashed on what he was thinking for an instant just before I settled into the pilot’s seat of his body. I heard a voice and saw a blurred image, backed by bright light. I couldn’t identify who the person was, but I knew I looked out of Bart’s eyes. The person said, “What are we going to do? I think she knows.”
The image and voice startled me so much, I fell backward, straight out of Bart and onto the ground. Since I wasn’t concentrating I wasn’t visible. I looked around me. Bart and I were in the same location, but Monica was gone. Bart towered above me, shaking his head and rubbing his eyes. I surged upward, floating before him, willing him to look in my direction. A sense relief flooded my system when he did. No mark on his forehead. I hadn’t cursed him to death.
Now I worried about Monica. I willed myself to the library and blinked into the audio-visual room. That was the room Miles had his meltdown when he thought the police would blame him for George’s murder. As I hoped, Monica was there, pacing and chewing a thumbnail. My clothes lay in a messy pile on a table.
“Monica, you’re okay?”
She yelped and spun to scan the room. “Where are you? Are you okay, Libby?”
I appeared. “I’m fine, but I need to get dressed quickly. I can’t believe I’m making a habit of falling out of my clothes, but you’re always there to help. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
She gave a nervous laugh. “Trust me. I freaked when Bart got this empty look in his eyes. What happened to him?”
I explained the details, but not about the curse if I stayed too long.
Monica shook her head in disbelief. “T-That’s possession, huh?”
I buttoned the last button on my top. “No, not really.” I told her about the image I had seen. “When I first go in, sometimes I can read their mind. At least, that’s what I assume. It’s an instant and doesn’t last. Then they’re normal. You wouldn’t be able to tell. Bart’s thought surprised me so much I fell out of him. What do you think it means?”
“That maybe he killed Sadie because she found out something she shouldn’t have.”
“It’s possible, but I don’t want to jump to wrong conclusions.”
Monica sighed in frustration. “Are you sure you don’t know who the person was? Young, old? Male, female?”
“No.” I strained to recall any details and replay the voice in my head, but each time I did, I became less sure, and the memory seemed distorted. “This ‘gift’ is not reliable in the least. I have no idea who it was.”
“Well, we know Bart is involved with something shady,” Monica insisted. “I say we find out what.”
This time I hesitated. “I don’t want to put you in danger, Monica. He almost hurt you.”
“Please.” She waved a hand. “He was all bluff, but he’s not going to get away with it. We’re calling Clark.”
I squeaked. “If we do that, he’ll want to know why Bart was so angry.”
“So do I!” She yanked her cell phone from her pocket. “He acted like he wanted to ring your neck and mine. He’s not getting away with it.”
“Don’t you think he’ll be more inclined to hate us if we get him fired?”
Monica didn’t answer because someone answered on the other end of her line. I cringed when she demanded to speak with Clark and then claimed
had information on his case. I chided my friend when she disconnected the call, but she wouldn’t listen to me. Monica left the room to begin training the new library employee, and I sat around to wait for Clark’s arrival.
Clark stormed into the quiet library twenty minutes later looking like he wanted to commit murder himself. He paused in the entryway, scanning the premises, and just when he seemed about to bellow for Monica or me, my friend hurried in from the children’s department. I walked into view as well, and Clark looked past Monica to take me in from head to foot. I fidgeted beneath his scrutiny and pasted on a smile.
“Hello, Clark. It’s been a couple days,” I began.
“What is this about Bart?” he snapped, getting to the point.
“We don’t need all of Summit’s Edge in on it.” Monica led us both back to the audio-visual room. She needed an office, in my opinion, but the only one available in the building was held in the tight grasp and control of Jane, the library manager. She took long lunch breaks and always locked her office when she was stepped out, according to Monica. I had the feeling Monica had checked in hopes of holding court in her boss’s absence.
“Explain.” Clark stood emitting anger and annoyance. I sensed something else too—worry. He was concerned about me, and I didn’t like it because it meant he hadn’t let his feelings for me go.
I quickly filled him in on our experience with Bart. Monica added a few embellishments to explain how we were able to get away from the man in his fit. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give Clark the most interesting clue, what I had gleaned from Bart’s own mind. When we were done, he appeared calmer than when he arrived, which surprised me.
“On behalf of the entire police department, I want to apologize for my officer’s behavior,” he said in a formal if sincere tone. “Bart’s going to be reprimanded. I will chew his…
…out, and he won’t approach either of you again.”
Monica slapped him on the shoulder. “I knew you would handle it, Clark.”
He frowned at her and then pinned me with a glare. “Now, you want to tell me the reason you’re going around asking questions, Libby?”
He waited, not to be put off with my stuttering.
As I searched for an explanation, the radio on his shoulder crackled.
“Chief, you there?”
He sighed and mashed the button on the radio. “Yeah, go ahead.”
“You might want to stop by Gatsky’s before you come back.”
“Why is that?”
I looked at Monica and whispered, “Who is that?”
. Of course. I had forgotten Hal, and he sounded different on the radio. Clark had needed a new dispatcher after he had fired Ken. To Monica’s and my relief, Clark had a small ‘fire’ to put out at the restaurant and assured me he would talk to me later. Monica and I thanked him with innocent smiles, and he ground his teeth before taking his leave.
When we were alone, Monica faced me. “So, what are we going to do now?”
I thought about it. “I’m going to follow Bart.”
“Libby, that’s dangerous.”
“I know, but he’s hiding something, and I want to find out what. Plus, do you really think he’ll admit the truth to Clark.”
She considered it. “I don’t know. Clark can be intimidating. He’s sweet, but when he’s mad, look out.”
“Yes, he’s sweet and tough when he needs to be,” I agreed. “He’s also a by the book kind of policeman. Even if he went against that, he wouldn’t be able to go where I can go.”
I took her hand and gave it a light squeeze. “Will you watch Jake, please?”
She grumbled. “You know I will. That little sweetheart never gives me any trouble. Plus, I’m guessing you’re going to go out at night?”
“Yes, somehow I doubt Bart will do anything while it’s daylight. And it’s best to strike tonight, right after Clark gets onto him. If there’s anything to hide, he will get rid of it tonight.”
Monica rolled her eyes. “This isn’t TV, Libby.”
“You keep telling me that, but I have to do this, Monica. You know that, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I know. Be careful!”
“I will.” I grinned. “He won’t see me coming.”
I chuckled on the way out of the library as I headed home, but I was far less confident than I made it sound to Monica. Perhaps tonight, I would find a clue to answer my many questions without anyone getting hurt, including me.
Up until now, I knew where everyone lived because of past experiences and being in their neighborhood. I had no idea where Bart lived or if he lived alone. In fact, as I put my mind to recalling local gossip, I thought I remembered everyone saying when Bart wasn’t working, he hung around the pool hall. The only place in town to shoot pool was the small establishment next to Gatsky’s. In fact, inside the restaurant, an entrance led to the pool hall.
Invisible, I first checked the police station, but Bart had already left for the day. Now that the sun had gone down, I considered maybe Bart wanted to let off steam, as men seemed to do. I winked out of the police station to blink in to the pool hall. Men milled about the crowded space around three tables and at a couple corner tables. I scanned the faces in the dim lighting. Bart’s was not among them. Maybe he had a file in the station, which listed his address, but if Clark locked it in his desk or in the ancient file cabinets occupying his office, I might not be able to get to the information.
“Hey, you fellas hear about Bart? The chief tore him a new one.”
I stilled to listen to the man speaking.
A few others laughed. One answered. “Yeah, we heard. How long you figure he’ll hide out embarrassed?”
The first man downed a drink I suspected was not cola, but there was no bar in the pool hall, and Gatsky’s didn’t serve anything other than wine. I suspected these men had brought their own. “When he starts missing a good game, he’ll be back.”
“He’s been acting strange lately,” the first man said. “Short fuse and all. What do you figure is his problem?”
Several men shrugged. None seemed to care. I waited to see if someone would make a suggestion as to the issue, but they returned to their games and lewd conversations. My ears burned, and I deemed it time to go.
I left the pool hall intending to return to the station. I would not call it a night until I had at least tried to find Bart’s address among Clark’s files. If the chief was there, then I would figure out what to do then. Scaring him out of his mind with file cabinets opening on their own would not be good.
For some reason, I floated along rather than will myself to return to the police station. My decision brought me upon Isabelle. Like the night I came across her strolling in the park, she was nowhere near her home, and the way she kept peering around raised my suspicions. I zoomed closer, but she froze and turned. I winked out and appeared in the alley between two buildings. I don’t know why I hid. She wasn’t able to see me, but I had taken cover without thinking.
I peeked out to the street. Isabelle had begun walking again. She picked up the pace. As soon as I started after her, she began jogging, something she probably shouldn’t do wearing those low heels. The click of her souls echoed across the night as she ran. She clutched an oversized bag under her arm, too big to be a purse and bulging like she’d stuffed quite a few items inside. What was she up to?
Isabelle reached the corner and turned it. I sped up to reach it as well, but when I came to the intersection and looked in the direction she had disappeared, I saw nothing. No one walked the streets. No heels clicked in the distance. Where had she gone? How had I lost her? I considered willing myself to wherever she was, but when I closed my eyes to try it, it didn’t work. Perhaps I could only appear in various locations and not before people. Curious, I tried concentrating on Monica and not on where I knew she was—my home. I opened my eyes. I stood on the street where I’d lost Isabelle. The complications of being a ghost boggled my mind.
As I strode back the way I came, I glanced across to the opposite side and spotted the hardware store. Gatsky’s was closed for the night, and the only other open establishment in the block was the pool hall. Isabelle worked as a nurse in the hospital, nowhere near Main Street. What had she been doing? I wanted so much to ask her or at least ask Clark, but I knew it would be out of line, especially when I had to explain why Isabelle hadn’t seen me or I hadn’t greeted her.
I squeaked and turned around. No one stood behind me. The shadows stretched toward me, and I whirled this way and that. I was alone, invisible, but it felt like something lay in the darkness, waiting, ready to pull me into it. I floated backward, but more shadows beckoned. I shut my eyes, mentally curling into myself. I visualized home, but when I peeked through one slitted eyelid, I hovered on Main Street. Fear swelled my throat, and I swallowed compulsively, a movement I didn’t need to do.
Then a pinpoint of light brushed my mind, not warm, but inviting. I could have sworn I heard Ian call, and somehow I calmed down enough to heed him. I zipped through space and time and appeared in his book room. He sat in a soft, red armchair with an ever-present book in his hand. When he looked up at me, no expression of surprise lit his face.