Chapter 12: Old South

Chapter 12 - Ghosts of the Old South

The Slave Quarters
Chapter 12: Ghosts of the Old South
By Rock Kitaro

When the crickets go on like this, I do wonder if it’s the middle of their mating season. I left my rental car on the side of Waynesboro Road and trekked through the field of crunchy branches. The beauty of the full moon is about the only thing that makes the crickets tolerable. It casts a dim light over the glistening field of white cotton, creating silhouettes out of the trees and the big house.

After the first two minutes, my eyes adjust and beyond the fields I see a massive wall of black that make up the towering woods reaching up to mesh with purple stardust.

I shouldn’t be here. I confess, I’m a little afraid. But there’s something about the suspense that’s making me a bit giddy. At any given moment someone could come up and stab me from behind and I’d just die laughing, thinking about Miranda’s advice and how she told me to wait till daylight. For all intents and purposes, she’s right. It’d be insane for anyone to come out looking to find a tiny silver barrette in the middle of the night.

However, I’m convinced KeNedra’s spirit is bound to the barrette. Which means if the barrette’s here, KeNedra’s here. I’ll ask my questions and solve this mystery. Case closed.

Each step I take is with caution, touching toes first before planting the rest of my sole. I keep looking over my shoulders. It’s a little after one on a weeknight so I don’t expect anyone to drive by, but you never know.

Approaching the slave quarters, I emerge from the dense thicket of brittle branches into a clearing of softer flat soil. A car hasn’t passed by in over fifteen minutes so I’m comfortable enough to take out my smartphone and activate the flashlight app. A small needlepoint bulb shines a beam, carving through the darkness and crawling along the soil. That’s when I hear it once more. Gospel music.

The chirping of the crickets fade out. It gives way to a soulful hymn that gradually picks up in volume. It’s the tune of people making the best of a bad situation. I hear footsteps in the bushes behind me but I’m not startled. Instead, something strange washes over me. A cool breeze penetrates my sweater and massages my chest like a refrigerated ointment.

Given in to some inexplicable compulsion, I’m brought to my knees. I close my eyes and let go if just for a moment. Gospel music is so therapeutic. Well…I say it’s gospel but for all I know it could be the blues.

More than twenty deep voices hum in blended harmony while ten tenors sang lyrics I couldn’t quite understand. So badly, I wish I could make out the words. Only one was discernible. God. The way they enunciated “God” with such passion, over multiple octaves. I never knew Gospel music could have such a psychological effect. It’s similar to the way metal helps me cope with the rage. Gospel seems to heal. I can’t remember the last time I felt so transported.

Slowly, I open my eyes and I’m awaken to a forgotten scene that obliterates the serenity. Around the slave quarters, I see dozens of dark billowy apparitions toiling in the fields. Their movements are drawn-out and perpetual, like seaweed swaying in a murky lake. There must have been thirty of them and that’s just what I saw in front of me.

Scanning my surroundings, I observe the length of three football fields teeming with paranormal activity. Hundreds of slaves continue to till but with no taskmaster. I heard no crack of the whip or racist taunts driving them on.

The closest to me is a large male raking a stretch of sand. Most of his form is that of dark smoke but his eyes are yellow. He can sense I’m staring and rewards my curiosity with a resentful scowl. His face gains solid definition with a hardened rough texture. I see the grooves of his nostrils snarl like a hostile Rottweiler about to lash out.

I avert my gaze, not out of fear, but sadness. I want him to know, I want them all to know that I’m not their enemy.

A spray of dirt scrapes over my shoes. I looked down to see dozens of small gray wisps, curious faces blended with animosity. High pitch laughter squeals out as the mischievous children realize they’ve been caught. As soon as I see them, they scurry off in all directions. Some disperse in thin air.

Even inside the slave quarters, I spot yellow eyes glowering at me, some with contempt and others with concern. They stare at me for close to three seconds and then fade back into the shadows of the roofed shelter.

“AYYYE!!!!”

A piercing scream sends shivers down my spine. There’s a scuffle, a struggle over life and death emanating from inside the slave quarters. My eyes gloss over with rage as I’m immediately reminded of what happened to Tiquasia Payne. Her pleas, her wailing, the vision of her being brutally manhandled and raped, it stokes the fire inside and snaps me out of this stupid melancholy.

KeNedra. Where are you? If your barrette is here, so should you. With that strong indomitable spirit, one would think you’d be the first to show yourself and steer me in the right direction. Were you really possessed by some evil spirit? Is that why you committed suicide? Were you driven mad? Demoralized?

I sit down on the frame of the doorway facing outward towards the cotton fields. Amidst the whimpers and bludgeoning thuds, the whacks of Tiquasia getting hit over and over again, my eyes stay open. I’m glowering at the fields and any resenting ghost that’s staring my way.

Screw that! I refuse to believe KeNedra was possessed. No! I won’t have it. KeNedra was strong. She stood up against injustices fully aware of the consequences. So what happened? Where the freak are you?

“Kill Crystianne!”

Great… Just what this situation needs, an entitled little schoolgirl from the 1950s showing her pale face for all to see. Maggie steps out of the other doorway ten paces to my right. Her arms are crossed and she’s wearing that signature squinty-eyed scowl of a rich girl who wants to play with the poor girl’s toys. We lock eyes. Both defiant. I bounce my eyebrows as if to say, “Problem?”

“GO KILL CRYSTIANNE!!!” she screams.

A wave of frightened wisps scurries off into the cotton fields. Even the larger slave kept his eyes down and suddenly timid as if he had a drunk Andrew Jackson bearing down his back. Maggie starts in an angry approach. Her face convulses and glistens as sweat and black mucous oozes from her pores.

“Why are we here?! Crystianne is still out there! She’s still alive!!!” She screams, adding monstrous bass in her voice like the growl of a mastiff.

“Damn it, Maggie! For craps sake, quit your hollerin. For the past few days you’ve gone on and on about wanting me to kill Crystianne. You know I will, so hold your fucking horses!”

“NO! SHE’S THE WORST!”

“Then why didn’t we kill her first? Hmm? I made you a promise, didn’t I? When have I ever let you down? When have I ever gone back on my word? Against my better judgment I’ve done every-goddamn-thing I said I was going to do for the sake of keeping my vow! So how about you get off my back and try helping someone else for a change! The sooner I solve this case, the sooner you can go back to hoarding all my undivided attention for yourself. Alright? ALL RIGHT?!”

It’s explosion of frustration and fury that takes her by surprise. She backs up and literally clean up her act. At once, her sweat ashes up and returns to the chalky complexion that was her default. I stand up. Everything I told her was exactly how I felt, save for one minor detail. I honestly don’t want to kill Crystianne so soon after the death of Florence Leach. If anyone picks up on the fact that these two senior citizens were in the same sorority, it could make things a bit difficult. A little patience could go a long way but it looks like Maggie’s fresh out of all that.

Suddenly, I catch movement beyond Maggie’s shoulders. She quickly turns around and whips her scowl on the big house. It was subtle, but I saw something moving in the 2nd floor bedroom. Someone was watching us.

I hate haunted houses. They make my skin crawl worse than the cemeteries of New Orleans. But I was pissed and ready for a fight. So was Maggie. So into the “master’s house” we go.

It’s faint but I hear off-beat piano music that sounds like an attempt at Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 in D Minor. With the flashlight in hand, I enter the vast hall where the grand staircase leads up the master staterooms. Shadows pass from door to door and suddenly there’s a cold draft washing over with a stench of mold.

Maggie’s by side. Her dark eyes remain vigilant. She sends phantoms into far stretched corners with a wicked hiss and a snarl. The spirits seem insulted by our intrusion so they clamor about in the darkness, rattling the doors, dragging their nails across the wooden floorboards.

We reach the grand staircase and as soon as my foot touches the first step, a tremendous explosion of noise and rage, the likes of a rampaging tornado howls through the house. I turn around, wide-eyed in horror as furious White Banshee comes charging at me like a pissed off she-bear. Her cheeks rattle with paper-thin gill-like slits. Her eye sockets have no eyes. Her hair writhes like thousands of tiny white snakes struggling to escape. The gown of her colonial dress is engulfed in white flames as ash withers in her wake.

The banshee’s scream is louder than a fire siren. It’s painful, assaulting my senses, shutting down my ability to react, to defend. She soars in astonishing pounce. All I can do is cover up. But Maggie’s not impressed.

In a single blast, Maggie retaliates with a scream of her own and it’s twice as loud. She enlarges in the blink of an eye and launches with outstretched claws like a lion to a wildebeest. Maggie sinks into banshee’s shoulders and as soon as her nails dig in, the banshee erupts into a violent explosion of dust as if Maggie had just ripped into a giant bag of flour.

I’m trembling with the flashlight. Never seen anything like it, a ghost on ghost fight. Maggie usually just scares other ghosts into submission. I suppose being in a house where residents were used to being tyrants, a physical confrontation was inevitable.

BA-DUM! BA-DUM! BA-DUM!

Hard banging stomps pound from the top of the staircase. A tall figure in a dark suit with legs twice as long as its torso is racing for me with a pitchfork. He looks like Abe Lincoln’s ghost with a black beard and a burning top hat.

Just as he raises to hurl his fork at me like a spear, a shiny black streak of slime rushes past me and slams into the ghost’s chest as if he was just blasted by a fire hose. It was Maggie. She stretched out her arm to discharge a black stream, and as if she was made rubber, her entire body followed the flow her own arm with the momentum of a slingshot. She went flying up the stairs and impaled her claws into the man’s chest.

Then, with black inky veins pulsing through her neck, Maggie emits a roar so loud that her jaw detaches. Chunks of her cheek spews out like vomit. The force of her oral blast shreds this man’s face like a pressure washer scraping the paint off a fence.

Paranoia kicks in. That creepy feeling when you’ve been so thoroughly distracted that you fail to realize someone’s sneaking up behind you. As I slowly sweep my flashlight from the grand staircase back down to the 1st floor, dozens of white angry ghosts stand in some kind of battle line. These are the generations of plantation owners, remnants of the Old South, the former kings and queens of Waynesboro Plantation all dressed up in tattered and torn antebellum attire. These were men, women, young boys and girls, all with the same thoroughly insulted snarling inclination of havoc stretched across their white burning faces.

In synchronized fashion, everyone takes a reluctant step back. Then another. And another. I look over my shoulder and realize that they were backing up with each step Maggie took in approaching me from the stairs.

“Are you coming?” she asks as if I was wasting her time.

“Yes. Thank you.” I say with my heartbeat racing at a thousand miles per hour.

Upstairs, the myriad of apparitions was a little bit more sedated than their belligerent counterparts below. They were curious but let us pass unhindered. And they were absolutely traumatized to cross Maggie’s path. I wasn’t sure if they saw what she did or if word had spread like an infection. Moonlight washes on and off of us as we pass by the windows. I’m on a long straight hallway where bedrooms are posited on both sides like a hotel.

At the end of the hallway, I can see the walls proliferated with tiny holes of light as if a machine gun had its way with it. I open the door to the bedroom on the right, the master bedroom. Three large square windows with milky stained glass overlook the slave quarters and the cotton fields. I enter and close the door behind me. Or at least, I tried to close the door. The door shuts just for a moment before sliding back open with a soft rubber recoil as if something was preventing its closure.

The void is silent and empty. A layer of dust blankets the wooden floor. Faint angry whispers penetrate the walls but it’s mostly coming from downstairs. The air is damp and chilly with floating particles suspended in motion. The fear and excitement had taken its toll on my body. My eyes were hot and weary. My arms, heavy. My chest, weak. With each breath I take I can feel a bar of energy leaving my body. Perhaps if I served in the military I would’ve been better equip to handle such long arduous days. I suppose such retrospect is useless now.

I pocket my phone flashlight and walk to stand directly in the center of this empty room. From my position I can still peer out the windows and clearly see the slave quarters and the cotton fields. I can even see my rental car all the way on Waynesboro Road. Dark shadowy figures continue to float by the doorway. Maggie gets annoyed and slams the door shut. The door closes, but again, it gradually squeaks open on its own.

Oh yeah….Another creepy thing about this empty bedroom are the bulging outlines of two giant faces frowning at me from two of the four walls. When they cringe and grimace, splinters pop out from the dry cracking wood. They look disgruntled, more so than angry. I almost want to say they look…jealous.

“You’re not like the others, are you?” came a hollow whispery voice. “By day, they waltz in. They gander like orphans, dubious of new lodgings when in fact, none of them, not even you, were ever invited.”

The country accent speaks to me from a corner. I turn to see an elderly man who looks almost as real as Maggie. He’s frail and skinny, hunched over with a walking cane. His long narrow beard reaches the second button on his vest that’s surprisingly pristine considering its antique couture. Unlike the others, this man has a pair of eyeballs staring at me. They’re small, cold, and gray like stones.

“May I ask? Who are you, sir?” I inquire with the utmost respect.

The old man taps his cane twice before moving towards the window with annoyance. It’s the same expression you’d expect from someone who thought kids were playing on the front lawn after they were repeatedly told to scat.

He speaks to me with a haggard Southern drawl and says, “This is my land. I watch over it day and night, ya hear? Like David, I shepherd my niggers and keep those nasty cottonmouths in line. By cottonmouths, I’m referring to those vipers you tangled with downstairs. Backstabbin sum’ bitches, the lot of them. But they kinfolk. And this is mah property! Should’ve sold it and ventured out west with the rest of the 49ers. Ole Dixie just wasn’t the same after the war.”

“Are you Waynesboro?” I ask.

“Waynesboro ain’t a name, you dumb shit! Borough is the prefix to which cities are prescribed. Waynesboro was named after ole’ Gen. Anthony Wayne. Mad Anthony they called him. I’m a descendant. My old man bought this plantation from a Frenchman during the Adams administration. The second one. Pa was a mean old drunk who gambled, pissed away money and took to shacking with the darkies. I never liked it. Bestiality is a sin, plain as day.

“When I came of age, I bested him in a card game and won the plantation. Dirty old goat tried to renege on the deal so I shot him. I shot him and strung up every jigaboo I saw him carrying on with. Though I’d be lying if I said my mother had no sway o’er the matter. Akin to Herodias when they killed John the Baptist. You heard of him? John the Baptist?”

“No sir.”

“John the Baptist was a holy man, second to Christ Jesus in those days. At the behest of his daughter, Salome, King Herod ordered John’s beheading. To fulfill a birthday wish. Can you reckon? And they have the gall to wonder why we hate the fuckin’ Jews. You Jewish, boy?”

“No sir.”

“Nah! I marked you as one of us the moment I laid eyes on ya. I saw you with the darkies. No fear in ya. Not even with Big Cassius. Hell, even I was nervous round ‘em. Came close to choppin off his hands as a precaution. I was still a youngin’ when Turner raised all kinds of hell. Err’one round these parts clamped down and tightened the reigns after that. Negroes…They should be thankin us. If it weren’t for us they’d be still out there worshipping their jungle gods, voodoo and rocks and shit. If it weren’t for us, they’d never know about Christ our Lord and the nigger heaven that awaits them if they’re good niggers.”

“UGH!” Maggie groans. “ Just ask your stupid questions already. Geez!”

Mr. Wayne points his cane at Maggie. “Now this one is too big for her britches. You’ll do well to keep this bump on a log away from ‘ere.”

Maggie approaches like a cat to a grasshopper. “Or what, old man? You’ll take away my dolls?”

“Go on, now! Get!” the old man lashes out.

“Maggie…” I utter.

Friggin shadows. Just as I reached out to stop Maggie, a dark shadowy figure starts leaning over my left shoulder. Swiping at the shadow immediately causes it to burst like a balloon of dust. Meanwhile, Maggie is backing this old dude into a corner.

“Maggie! Come here.”

She hisses over her collar. “You’re not the boss of me!”

“Listen! What did we just finish talking about? Get back or so help me God I will flush your necklace down the toilet.”

“You don’t have the balls!” She snarls.

As she returns to my side, she mumbles about how she saved my life downstairs. I counter with, “at best, it would’ve given me nightmares for a couple of days but I would’ve gotten over it.”

All the while, Mr. Wayne examines us with growing contempt. I think something about me reminds him of a carpetbagger. The fact that I haven’t pelted Maggie for mouthing off diminishes what little respect he had for me.

“Get out! The both of ya!” He shouts with shuddering shoulders and shaky knees.

“Sir. Please forgive my incorrigible friend here. As you can see, she comes from a time where her kind have all the power and we men are merely reduced to satisfy their every whim and inclination. My name is Cloud Beaudry. I am, as you would say, an officer of the law but not Federal. I represent the interests of the state of Georgia and Georgia alone.”

“Go on,” He groans.

“Last week a girl was murdered in your slave quarters. I’m here to hang the killer up to his eyeballs.”

“It’s just one less darkie. Don’t make a lick of difference to me.”

My lips grin as a clever thought occurs. Attempting my best cowboy impression, I squint my eyes and let my head sway from side to side with each swaggering step.

“Well, I’ll tell ya. You should help me out because it’s likely another nigger did this. And I tell you what, there’s nothing worse than a free nigger walking around, breathing in all the white man’s air, taking advantage of the liberties our fathers fought and died for and without a single lick of gratitude. No sir! There’s nothing worse than that. The law is simple and it comes from the good book, as you know. Thou shall not kill. And if a nigger did this, well I tell ya, Mr. Wayne. There’s a sturdy branch out there with his name on it. To hell with the girl. Fuck ‘em. Just irks me to the nth to let this golden opportunity go to waste. On top of all that, I’d be much obliged.”

The old man’s a hard read. I couldn’t tell if he was convinced or if I overdid it. His gaze wanders across the floor as he deliberates. That’s when an impatient Maggie erupts with, “TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW OR WE’LL BURN THIS WHOLE FUCKING HOUSE DOWN!”

“Alright! Dagnabit!” Mr. Wayne barks.

Yeesh…Where would I be if I were half as ruthless?

“The man you’re looking for rode in on a carriage with flashing lights.”

“Flashing lights? Wait, you mean like emergency lights? Like a cop? What colors were they? Blue? Red? Orange? Yellow?” I ask.

“I can’t see colors. Only shades of nigger!” the old man grumbles.

“He means black,” Maggie clarifies.

“Yes, thank you.” I whisper, annoyed she thought I wouldn’t get it. This is good though. Flashing lights. Did a cop do this? At the same time, I know the sanitation truck J-Poopy drives has flashing yellow lights. So he’s still on the hook.

“Did you catch a name? Can you describe the vehicle, at least?” I ask him.

Suddenly, Maggie tenses up with an amped up scow. “Behind you.” She warns.

I’m so focused on the clue that it irritates the hell out of me just to throw a passing glance. I look over my shoulders, and go figure, another dark shadow. I swipe at its chest like I did with the last one…only…only this one doesn’t burst. It’s solid like a quilt draped over a rock. My fingers were relaxed when I swiped at the figure so they jammed up and it hurts like a mother…

This shadowy figure…every inch of his body is covered in dark clothing, long sleeves, and gloves. Even his face is concealed by a black ski mask. I’m so tired. My instincts are slow. It won’t sink in till later that I’m staring the killer right in the face.

As I scramble to make sense, my eyes widen at the large object he picks up and swings it at me. I cover up just in time from him to break a wooden stool over my arms. The blow sends me staggering near the windows with the right side of my neck taking the grunt force of the blow.

He’s still clenching a leg from the barstool. He belts me twice before I’m able to trap his arm and punch him in his face. At least, I tried to punch him. He ducks under my swing and picks me up like I’m nothing more than a toddler. I’m carried away from the windows and thrown through the weak bedroom walls.

I spill out into the hallway with a confetti of rotten wood and dust getting in my nose and airways. Adrenaline kicks in. I roll to my hands and knees as my anger injects subconscious morphine to dull the sharp splinters stabbing all over my back. Barely able to see, I hear the hurried footsteps and instinctively cover up just in time to block a punt to the face. My arms rattle. They could be broken, but suddenly I’m wide-awake.

Standing up, I keep my center of gravity low. He gets a clean punch at my sternum but that’s all right. I’m glad he hit me. Even though it feels like I just took a fastball to the chest, I now know exactly where he’s act.

My counter consists of a Wing Chun combination I’ve practiced a thousand times. Two palm-strikes to the face, a punch to the sternum, followed by a chop to his neck. Once my sweeping chop connects with the side of his neck, my fingers latch on to pinch the nerve in the back. I dragged his head down to my waist before slamming an elbow to the back of his head.

The fast flurry was flawless. The elbow strike would’ve dropped most men but somehow this bastard’s still standing. Already low, he hooks around both my legs and throws his shoulder into my stomach, ramming the back of my head against another wall.

Damn…that got me good. I feel my eyes rattle and I’m gasping for air. Thankfully I see his right cross coming and use a pak sau (palm slapping technique) to parry the blow. I hook around his neck again to slam his face into the wall. He still doesn’t fall.

With monstrous strength, he wraps around my ribs and swings me from the hallway into another bedroom. There’s plenty of moonlight in this room. I see my opponent clearly. He swings at my face. I deflect it before countering with a chop to his throat. As he staggers back, I try to follow up with a punch but he dodges it.

We throw knuckles for the better part of a minute. Anyone whose been in a fight can tell you that thirty seconds feels like three minutes in the thick of it. I’m careful to avoid taking damage to the face. No doubt, my back and chest will look like a blotched oil painting in the morning but I prefer that to a black eye and a busted lip. He’s three times stronger and better rested. I have the knowledge, a system of martial arts I’ve been practicing for nearly ten years. The edge, however, goes to my opponent. It appears he simply has a high tolerance for pain. I do not.

The fight nears its finale when he manages to catch one of my kicks. As I hobble on one foot, he puts in a final charge and rams out of the 2nd floor window. Glass shatters. Wood breaks. I feel a gust of cold air as the constellations spiral and then…God’s green earth rushes up and slams into my back. Blood vessels burst. My organs flatten out with an intense pain unlike anything I’ve ever felt. It’s as if everything in and around my guts had been jerked off its hinges and slapped onto a sizzling pan. A wad of spit flies out as I gasp for air but oxygen neglects me. My lungs refuse to cooperate. I can’t move my legs, and my arms are like wet noodles on the frosty, wet grass.

Broken. The terror of permanent paralyses immediately pervades my thoughts. I can’t move. I can barely breathe. My vision’s getting faint and the throbbing pain in my neck and face causes a heated layer of tears to coat my eyes. My chest isn’t moving the way it should and even my lips refuse to come together.

This is it. This is how I die. Thrown out of a plantation house and left for my comrades to find me in this pathetic state when the sun comes up. Oh my gosh! The curse! The cycle will repeat itself. The Beaudry curse is real! Ever since the Salem Witch Trials when the matriarch gave birth while hanging from the gallows, everyone in my family died before the age of forty-five. Just like my mother, they’ll pass me off as a suicide. The only difference between my mother and myself is that I don’t have a scion to avenge me. Damn…This sucks.

The killer approaches. I can hear his wet crunching footsteps. Utterly defeated, thinking I’m going to die anyway, I imitate the last person I saw dead with my own two eyes. Florence Leach. Her mangled body laid out at the bottom of the stares is still fresh in my mind, the way her vein-strained eyes bulged out with shock and excruciating torment.

The killer hovers, watching, waiting for me to move. I don’t move an inch. I’m scared stiff, like a frozen Titanic corpse waiting for the lifeboats to come back. His wet boot glides over and presses against my sweaty cheek, turning my face from one side to the other. He raises his heel as if he’s about to come stomping down but suddenly there’s a beeping chirp. I recognize it. It’s the call from a radio handset attached to his shoulders. He answers it. A voice on the other end recites some emergency code, but I’m too dazed to recognize it.

After looking around, the killer hurries off. My head slowly turns to see where he’s going. His vehicle isn’t parked nearby and he’s smart enough to leave my rental alone. He disappears into the woods on the other side of Waynesboro Road.

That’s right. You better run.

Fifteen minutes pass by and I’m still on my back. My head’s throbbing and every time I try to sit up, a fire ignites in my lower back. I’m exaggerating of course. It’s not that bad. But my ass is pressed against something protruding into one of my cheeks. Feels like a deck of cards. I reach down and slide underneath to find out what’s going on. It’s not a deck of cards. It’s Miranda’s pack of cigarettes, the pack I took from her two days ago in the library. Against my better judgment, I light one up.

I’m gazing at the celestial ceiling as if I haven’t a care in the world, but it only appears so. In truth, I’m way too vindictive to forgive and forget an ass-whooping like that. As if the dial of my determination wasn’t already cranked up to the max. He should have made sure I was dead. Fantasizing about the payback is a provisional painkiller. Just thinking about what I’m going to do to this guy makes me smile.

The killer risked a lot by showing up tonight. My list of suspects just reduced substantially. For starters, the killer is not J-friggin-Poopy. I hope his attorney is as good as they say he is.

Then there’s what Mr. Wayne said about the vehicle the killer drove. It had flashing lights. If only I knew what colors they were I could pinpoint the emergency service. For all I know it could be a tow truck or an ambulance. Of course I settle on law enforcement since history has shown this to be the most likely outcome. And if it was a cop who did this, there’s only one bastard I know who’s tall enough and strong enough to beat me in a fight.

Detective Griffin… You made a mistake by thinking my mother committed suicide. You made an even bigger mistake by trying to take me out. And here I was thinking about forgiving your racist ass.

“Do you remember what you said to me five years ago?” Maggie says as she steps into view, examining me like a coroner examining a body that floated to shore. Her black stringy hair blows in the frosty wind. It’s odd. She doesn’t appear angry or upset. She actually looks concerned. Was she worried about me? So precious.

“I’ll remind you,” she continues. “Maggie, I don’t know what happened to you, but I promise I’ll find out. Ending a life so young, no matter what kind of person you were, is unforgivable. I promise, Maggie. I’ll give you a taste of what I felt when I saw that truck flip over. And by truck, you were referring to the one driven by your mother’s killer.”

I don’t know how, but she has the ability to imitate my voice with near perfect precision. It’s eerie.

“The stars look different from Atlanta. Look at ‘em, Maggie. They’re everywhere,” I whisper softly.

She doesn’t look up at the stars. She crouches down so that her dark pleated skirt is almost brushing up against my face. She pokes my cheeks. The touch of a ghost is never pleasant. If she wanted to, her hand could phase through me. It’s like a stream of cold water suddenly flowing through my flesh in ways one should never have to experience.

“You just going to lay there all night?”

A congested chuckle escapes my throat. “Anyways. What’s with you failing to mention you can’t see colors?”

Maggie scoffs. “I can see colors just fine. You, Cloud, shouldn’t be falling out of windows. I can tell you from experience, it’s not exactly fun.”

“Wait a second! The old man? He lied to me?”

Maggie stands with an arch in her back, true to form like the pin-up model she once idolized. Jerking her chin, she sneers, “And he was such a sweet old man.”

 

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