Read C.F. Fowler - Marion Rogers 01 - A Ghost's Vengeance Online
Authors: C.F. Fowler
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Ghosts - L.A.
|C.F. Fowler - Marion Rogers 01 - A Ghost's Vengeance|
|Marion Rogers |
|C.F. Fowler (2014)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Ghosts - L.A.|
A Ghost’s Vengeance
A Marion Rogers Novel
By C.F. Fowler
© 2014 CF Fowler
Marion Rogers entered the office angrily. She stormed past the receptionist and into the office with the name plate “Josh Daniels, President, CEO.”
“Didn’t we have an understanding, Josh!” she shouted as she slammed the door behind her. “I was supposed to get the week off!”
“Yes, you were, but we have an emergency situation and the client will pay us triple!” the young man behind the desk responded. “I assumed you would enjoy making some extra money.”
The 5’6” young brunette slumped down onto the sofa and groaned. Her thin frame made her look taller; her lack of sleep gave her a paler-than-usual complexion that might cause an elderly woman to comment to her on the dangers of anorexia. Her black slacks fit appropriately but the white blouse she threw on while half awake hung loosely on her, making her look thin and drawn.
Josh, a handsome man with a 6’2” frame, walked to the sofa and sat next to Marion. He waited quietly for her to look up and respond. He knew her all too well. His light brown hair and polished business attire made him look more like a banker than a private investigator. Actually, he was a shrewd businessman who hired a variety of people to work the detective side of his business, Daniels Investigations. Marion was singularly gifted in the spirit world and one-of-a-kind in his agency. His office furniture reflected his minimalist taste with a glass table desk, a small but expensive office chair, two small end tables in front of the sofa instead of a coffee table, and some expensive art on the walls.
“What’s the emergency?” she asked as she sat up to look him square in the eye.
He replied, “A man in Santa Clarita says he’s being tormented by a ghost.”
“Santa Clarita? There aren’t any ghosts in Santa Clarita,” Marion groaned as she slumped back on the sofa and closed her eyes. Her waist-length straight brown hair flowed back against the white leather of the sofa presenting a sharp contrast in color and texture.
Josh smiled. His teeth were perfectly straight, his tan was perfectly even. “Well, there is NOW and he’s willing to pay, and pay a lot!” he responded. “I sent Arnie up to check out the earthly reasons for his complaints and there are none. His electrical is working perfectly and there’s no sign of tampering.”
Marion wondered how she got to the point of exhaustion. She opened her hazel eyes and saw Josh smiling at her.
“Why are you smiling like that?” she asked.
“Smiling like what?”
“Like the cat that swallowed the canary,” Marion smiled as she said it. Although wanting to appear angry, it was hard to be angry with Josh. He was her oldest friend, having met each other in kindergarten, and he knew how to get her to do what he needed. “Okay, give me the lowdown.”
Josh stood and walked back to his desk. He seemed to change into a businessman when he stepped behind his desk. “Robert Jergins, 4233 Park Street in Santa Clarita. He said he heard noises first then, things started moving around. He figured he had misplaced things, was afraid he was losing his mind.”
“Maybe he is,” Marion offered hopefully. Her bed was calling to her.
“No, he says the lights, the stereo, and TV turn on and off on their own. I knew you were in need of rest so I tried to blow him off. Triple our rates is a small fortune. Do you really want to pass on that?”
Marion stood for a moment, silent, then said, “Text me the address. When is he expecting me?”
“Today at three o’clock. Call me when you’re done and we’ll discuss what action should be taken,” Josh replied. “Oh, and the client won’t be there.” He reached in his desk drawer and pulled out a ring with two keys on it. “Here are the keys, and PLEASE spend a couple of hours there. This guy won’t like it if you spend a few minutes and say he’s crazy.”
“You know, he probably is,” Marion responded. “How many in the past year have been paranoid people watching too many ghost reality shows on cable? I’ve lost 10 pounds in the past month from all the running around I’ve done for you. I appreciate the work, but after this one I definitely need a break!”
Josh smiled. “Since he’s paying triple in advance, spend some time and make it look good.”
Marion left quickly. She hated to be issued orders but knew Josh was the front man and he just wanted to be able to assure the client they had investigated thoroughly. Still, the tone was unsettling. When she reached her car she sat for a moment with eyes closed, trying to form a game plan. Santa Clarita was at least a 30-minute drive and she was extremely sleep deprived. Closing her eyes seeing her mother making dinner in the kitchen, humming a country western song as sleep took over her consciousness. She loved to hear her mother hum. Her mother was a 5’7” blond beauty with perfect pitch. Her aunt looked very similar to her mother. Anyone could tell they were sisters. Marion sat at the kitchen table with her aunt, trying to work on her math homework. Aunt Mary tutored her, telling her how smart she was and to let it show. Suddenly a noise woke her from the dream. Looking at her phone and saw the text from Josh. If she didn’t get moving, downtown traffic would hold her up. Why couldn’t Josh get an office in a less pretentious part of town? The high-rise building in downtown Los Angeles was prohibitively expensive but close to Josh’s alma mater, USC. Marion graduated from UCLA, the state university located in beautiful and highly social Westwood. She and Josh, both in their mid-thirties, were cross-town college rivals and should be enemies. At the end of each college football season when their teams played each other they were good-natured rivals, but they were good for each other in the business world.
Marion started her SUV after her phone’s GPS was prepared to start voicing instructions on how to get to her destination. She headed toward Santa Clarita hoping the traffic on the Golden State Freeway would be moderately congested rather than the parking lot it usually was. The 24-hour news radio helped to keep her awake. Traffic wasn’t great but in another 30 minutes it would be much worse. Arriving early, she decided to get a cup of coffee at the nearest drive-through and wait for 3:00 to arrive. Once outside the client’s home, she sat back and drank the coffee. It was a high-end neighborhood where the houses ran over half a million dollars on the low side. Leaning back in the vehicle and trying to relax without falling asleep was unsuccessful.
She found herself drifting off the sleep again: back with her mother, but this time they were at the beach. Her aunt was telling her mother to stay out of the sun. Aunt Mary was a friend and a mother to all: Always reminding Marion about sunscreen, hygiene, or homework. The sun was not good for their skin. Mother lathered some sunblock on herself and Marion. Once again the phone woke her. Josh’s name appeared on the screen.
“Hello, Josh, what now?”
“Just wanted to be sure you didn’t fall asleep somewhere,” Josh replied.
“No, don’t worry. I’m right outside the address you gave me. I’ll head in now.”
“Okay, call me when you’re done,” Josh reminded her.
“I got it, don’t worry,” Marion replied, hitting the end button on her phone.
She walked up to the front door, used the keys Josh had given her and entered the house. It was immaculate to a fault. For a minute it looked like a model home. The house had hardwood floors and an off-white sofa, love seat, and chair: Like a furniture showroom. There was no individuality expressed here. No family photos. She walked around the lower floor before ascending the stairs to the bedrooms. The upper floor was as orderly as the lower one, also lacking personal photos or trinkets of any kind. The closets revealed there was clothing, so someone did live here. Men’s clothing hung in the master bedroom, none in the others. There were four locked trunks. Maybe important possessions were locked in the trunks. She couldn’t fathom one person living in a three-bedroom house and saw no in-home office in any of the bedrooms. Didn’t most people have extra bedrooms for a gym, rec room, or office? Why had the client not unlocked the trunks? It looked as though he had lived here long enough to unpack all his other belongings. She descended the stairs to the lower floor and sat on the couch, avoiding the temptation to lean back or she would drift off again. She listened to the house but heard nothing.
“Hello,” she said to no one in particular. “I’m here to listen if you have anything to say.”
She walked to the kitchen and opened the cupboards: matching dishes, not one odd mug in the mix. Who was this guy — the male counterpart to Martha Stewart? Marion spent two hours pacing the house, upstairs and down, talking, pleading, and finally, provoking. No luck. “I told him there weren’t any ghosts in Santa Clarita,” she said to no one in particular. The community was too new. Rarely were spirits found in communities such as this one which consisted of newly built model homes for upper middle class folks looking for high-end homes for a better price. No, a home over 50 years old was her thought on the matter. Any community younger than that wasn’t likely to have spirit activity. Though one never knew what atrocities may have happened before they moved in.
Marion locked up the house, got back in her car, and headed back to her apartment in the San Fernando Valley. Traffic was bad, due to the Los Angeles rush hour. When finally arriving home, she called Josh and gave him the results of her walk-through. She told him she would drop off the homeowner’s keys at the office the next day. Her apartment was located on a sleepy street in Tarzana, a two-story security building with a pool and lush trees for shade.
She opened a bottle of beer and sat on the sofa, putting her feet up on the coffee table, leaned back, closed her eyes and drifted off. She was sitting in her mother’s living
room with Josh. They were back in college and cramming for midterms. Josh kept making her laugh until they were rolling on the floor. Although they attended different schools they studied well together – when Josh would hold back on the jokes.
Her aunt would remind her they needed to ace their midterms. They got control of themselves quickly and got back to studying. A knock at the door woke her.
“Damn it!” she said as she headed to the door and looked through the peephole. She could see an attractive man with sandy hair. “Yes?” she said, “Who is it?”
“I’m sorry to bother you. My name is Detective Gordon Baxter, Los Angeles Police Department.” With that he held up a badge to the peephole.
Struck with curiosity, she opened the door and asked “How can I help you?”
The detective was in his late 30’s, tall with a football player’s physique and thick, brown, wavy hair and stood a good 6’4” easily, a bit taller than Josh. His attire was cheap and casual, what she expected of a detective.
“May I ask you a few questions?” He asked politely. “I promise not to take too much of your time.”
Marion mustered a small smile, and opened the door to let him in.
The detective pulled a notepad from his pocket, opened it and said, “You were seen at an address in Santa Clarita today. It seems you spent a couple hours there. Would you mind telling me what business you had at that address?” He smiled and nodded toward the sofa.
Marion said, “By all means sit. But unfortunately I cannot tell you anything. The company I work for was contracted to perform a service for the person living at that house. You will have to take it up with the agency.
“How did you know I was there? And how did you get through the security gate of my building?” A million questions ran through Marion’s head.
Baxter answered, “I found the front gate unlocked. You should speak with the apartment manager about that. As to how I know you were in Santa Clarita, well,” he hesitated and looked to be considering how to answer, “that’s something I can’t tell you at the present time.”
Marion frowned and looked away. Why was this job bringing the police to her door? “If you’ll wait just a moment, I’ll call my office and put you on speaker. Maybe you can get your answers right now. But, I’m not promising anything.”
She got up and went to the phone stand across the room and brought the phone to the coffee table in front of Detective Baxter. Marion hit the speed dial for the office, waited for the receptionist to answer and asked to speak with Josh. When he picked up she explained she had a LAPD detective in her house with some questions about her afternoon appointment, pressed the speaker button and hung up the receiver.
As the detective posed his questions to Josh, she realized this was no minor incident and remembered back to the house with the impeccable cleaning job. Was it a home someone lived in? Was it a meeting place for drug deals? As the conversation between the detective and Josh wound down, she realized no information was going to be shared by either party.
When the conversation ended she picked up the receiver and put it back in its cradle to disconnect the line. The detective stood up and Marion stood as well.
He said, “I’m sorry he couldn’t divulge any information. I was hoping we could get something to help our case.”
Marion smiled and said, “It’s a tricky thing in our business. People have to trust us or we’re out of business. Is there anything you can share with me? Is there anything dangerous there that I should be made aware of?”
Baxter smiled and said, “No danger to you. If you have to go there again, please keep your eyes open for anything out of the ordinary.”
As they walked to the door, Marion no longer felt sleepy. As she opened the door she said, “You know I was ready to fall into bed and sleep for a day and now you come along and wake me up better than an espresso with an extra shot of caffeine.”
“Sorry about that. We both seem to be compelled to keep details from each other. I was hoping you would have answers for me but I can tell you in confidence that the house is under surveillance. There really is no danger to you. Please don’t tell your client of my visit today.”
Marion said, “Your secret is safe. I have no obligation to inform the client of any matters other than the one for which he paid. I’m hoping I won’t have to go back there again, but that’s not definite.”
Baxter smiled again and walked out. Marion closed the door behind him. She thought of calling Josh again but decided to put a DVD on and finish her beer. In less than 30 minutes she was asleep on the couch and didn’t wake until the phone rang the following morning.
“Josh,” she said groggily trying to push the sleep out of her head and sound as if she had been awake. “What time is it?”
“Ten o’clock on the nose. Didn’t want to wake you, but I guess I did.”
Marion sat up on the couch and tried to get her bearings. Her head was pounding and her mouth was dry. “No, it’s okay. What’s up?”
“The client wants you to try again. He said he had to stay at a hotel last night.”
“Josh, there wasn’t anything there.” Marion sat with her head in her hands and thought about the drive back to the model home capital of the world. “Maybe if the client is there I’ll have better luck. The spirit may be attached to him, not the house.”
“That may be a hard sell. The guy is severely rattled. If it was attached to him, wouldn’t it have followed him to the hotel?”
“No. Spirits require a certain amount of the haunted’s possessions to be in the vicinity to hone in on them. It’s like with a bloodhound — the more the hunted person is wearing, the more clothes that are holding the scent.” She knew he wouldn’t understand but she found it to be a fact. The spirit could not find the haunted person easily and one night in a hotel would provide only a brief respite to Mr. Jergins.
Josh paused as he was considering how to present the client with the proposal. “OK, give me a few minutes to call him back. When can you get back up there? Give me a few options so we can try to match up with his availability.”
Marion mentally ran through her plans for the day.
, she thought,
I don’t have any
. “I’m available all day, just set a time that’s good for him.”
After hanging up she went to the kitchen for a glass of water and three aspirin. Then showered, dressed and wondered what was taking Josh so long to get back to her. Tying her hair back she realized how anorexic she looked.
, she thought,
leave it down. I don’t need little old ladies telling me to eat something.
Her phone buzzed, indicating a text message. “Three o’clock at the client’s home” was the message from Josh.
, she thought,
let me get some coffee
Marion grabbed some cash, her keys, put on her Dodger cap and headed out on foot to a coffee house a couple of blocks away. The day was beautiful and the walk would invigorate her. Living in Southern California had its advantages. Springtime in Los Angeles brought sunshine and 70-degree weather. The short walk took her down tree-lined streets with a quick walk through a tunnel beneath the Ventura Freeway. In no time she was walking along Ventura Boulevard. Since she had slept late, rush hour had passed and traffic was moderate. Approaching the counter of the coffee house, the young man behind the counter greeted her.
“Hey Marion! How’s it goin’?”
“Good Mark, how’s it with you?”
“Can’t complain, want your usual?”
“Yes, please, and how about a banana nut muffin?”
She paid and took her coffee and muffin to a patio table. After a sip of her coffee she heard a male voice say, “Small world isn’t it?” She looked across the patio and saw Detective Baxter sitting at a table with coffee and an empty plate in front of him.
a small world, or am I under surveillance too?” she responded.
He smiled, picked up his coffee cup, and approached her table. “No, no surveillance. I live a couple of blocks away. May I?” he gestured toward the empty chair at her table.
“Of course, sit,” she responded, “You can understand how I might think otherwise considering our conversation yesterday.”
He smiled, “Sure can. I can’t believe I never noticed you here before. I’m here a few mornings a week.”
“I’m not normally here this late. I’m enjoying some down time.” She was unsure how to talk with the detective – or what motives he might have to run into her.
, she thought,
now I’m getting paranoid
. “And you are not keeping an eye on my client today?”
The detective said, “Have the morning off. I’ll be taking over around three today.” He took a sip of his coffee and she tried to read his face. Did he know? Was he able to intercept her text messages? “I’m glad I ran into you today. We have a friend in common.”
“Really,” she responded, “and who would that be?”
“Sandy Moore. She says she took classes with you at UCLA.”
“Yes, we did more than take classes. But I hope she didn’t tell you that! How do you know Sandy?”
The detective smiled and said, “Sandy dated my roommate at UCLA. By the look on your face I’m thinking you didn’t think cops went to college.”
“No! Not at all! Just amazed at that small world you mentioned.” Sandy knew about her gift, curse, whatever it was. Would she have mentioned that to him? “How did my name come up, detective?”
“Please, call me Gordon. It’s that small world again. She was driving by yesterday when I was getting into my car after speaking with you. I used to live on the other side of the hill.” ‘The other side of the hill’ was how locals described the divide between the San Fernando Valley and the communities on the ocean side of the Santa Monica Mountains. “She lives close by. We had coffee yesterday after I left.” Gordon paused, took a sip from his coffee and asked, “Why were you so tired yesterday?”
She was unsure how to respond. How much did he know? “I was just back in town from a week-long job in Nevada. It took a lot out of me and I was supposed to have some time off.”
“Until Mr. Jergins called you?” Gordon was eyeing her intently.
“You could say that. How much did Sandy tell you about me?” She was finding the conversation uncomfortable and wanted all cards on the table.
“Sandy is a bit talkative. Once she gets going it’s impossible to stop her.”
Marion knew the jig was up.
“She says you have an interesting job for someone who aced her classes in business school. She says your some sort of psychic.”
Marion decided to tell him as much as she could. What the heck. “Not a psychic, necessarily, I see and communicate with spirits.” She waited for the obvious reaction but was surprised when it didn’t come.
Gordon sat up and leaned forward in his chair and asked, “Does it pay well? How many people need your services?” He seemed serious about his questions, not scoffing.
“As a matter of fact it does pay well. Unfortunately, after the cable channels started showing those haunting shows, many people became convinced their houses are haunted. People are easily convinced of such nonsense.”
Gordon was taken aback. “Nonsense? How can you call it nonsense when you make your living talking to ghosts?”
“There are legitimate hauntings, but they are few and far between. I waste my time going to structures with very earthly reasons for the disturbances. My last job in Nevada was one such example.” She took a sip of her coffee and a bite of her muffin. This was her down time. She needed to relax in spite of the detective sitting across the table from her. “A hotel in Nevada was thought to be haunted. One cable show came in and could not verify it. A less reputable show came in and showed bricks flying through the air and spirits chasing them out in the middle of the night. The owner was fed up and asked Josh for help. I found no spirits in the hotel. The workers that were too scared to finish refurbishing the structure can now return to work.”
“Ah.” Gordon was enjoying this conversation more than he anticipated. He expected her to be full of herself and see spirits everywhere. This woman knew enough not to involve herself with charlatans. “So, Mr. Jergins thinks he’s haunted?”
Marion smiled. “Cute, Gordon. I cannot tell you anything about what I was doing there. It’s bad enough you know how I make my living. What was your major at UCLA — or did you attend a different college?”
“Law,” Gordon replied. “I got a little sidetracked when I started working for the LAPD. Have you always seen spirits?”
“Yes. I was 10 years old before I realized my aunt passed away before I was born. I assumed she lived with us.” Marion paused, took another sip of coffee and a bite of her muffin. Gordon waited for her to continue. “Mom sat me down one day and told me my imaginary friends had to be put away. I was too old for such things. I didn’t understand what she meant. After a bit of conversation I realized she meant Aunt Mary. When I told her I was talking to Aunt Mary she became upset and told me cruelty was not acceptable in our house. When I told her something Aunt Mary told me to prove it to her, she believed. She was a little frightened, but she believed. She told me not to tell anyone as it could cause me a lot of grief.” Marion paused, and then asked, “Have you given up on law?”
“No, I expect to take the bar exam soon. At least that’s what I tell myself every now and then.” Gordon remained quiet for a minute then asked, “What did your aunt tell you to prove it?”
“She told me how she died, protecting my mother while she was pregnant with me. I reasoned that she was attached to me but she left me when my mother died. So she was earthbound because of my mother.”
“So when your mother died you suffered a double loss. Wow! I’m so sorry!” He went back to his coffee, unsure whether he should have spoken his feelings. “So did they both walk into the light?”
Marion smiled. “You watch too much TV. If there is a light, it isn’t visible to me.”
“So where do they go?”
“I’m hoping home to be with Jesus. That’s where I hope to see them. Not all spirits stay earthbound. I would say most leave and just a few are compelled to stay, like my Aunt.”
Gordon looked at Marion in astonishment. “Jesus? I wouldn’t think a religious person would be in your line of work.”
“What does one have to do with the other?” Marion replied with an irritated tone. She was tired of people assuming that those who had contact in the spirit world were atheists or agnostics.
“Sorry, I hadn’t given it much thought. I just never heard Jesus mentioned by anyone who conversed with the spirit world.”
“And I guess you think I wear a scarf, sit in front of a crystal ball and speak with an accent of some kind?” She was really working up a head of steam.
“I’m sorry. Really! I wasn’t thinking. You’re right. I’ve had little exposure to someone in your line of work and I’m working on stereotypes. Please forgive me.” Gordon was beside himself. He realized too late he should have given some thought to his response rather than blurting out his first words that came to mind.