“I killed someone.”
Luis stared at the man. “Who?”
“A girl. Seventeen if I had to guess her age.”
“About an hour ago.”
Scanning the man with his eyes, Luis sighed. “Well, that would’ve been a little difficult in your position.”
“What do you mean?”
“Being dead and all, I find it hard to believe you killed someone an hour ago. Maybe an hour and ten years ago, but not an hour.” Luis leaned back in his chair and met the ghost man’s eyes. “Plus, you don’t look like the killing type. Even for a cursed spirit.”
Lowering his eyebrows, Luis tilted his head to the side. “You do know you’re dead, right? You aren’t one of those spirits who haven’t figured it out yet, are you? If you are, sorry and welcome to the after life.”
The ghost man visibly shook with anger. “I’ve just told you I killed someone and all you can do is joke? Aren’t you even going to ask me how or what happened?”
Groaning and raising his face to the ceiling, Luis squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Fine. What happened?”
“I was walking down First Street like I do every day since I…since I died.” Ghost Man paused before his face distorted into confusion. “How did you know I died ten years ago?”
“Part of my job. Continue.”
“Usually, I walk up to the bridge crossing the lake then turn back, but today I decided to keep going. I was halfway across when I realized there was no particular reason I wanted to cross the bridge. I actually try to avoid it if I can because that was how I died.”
“Crossing a bridge?”
“I lost control of why car on an icy bridge and crashed. The wall broke and my car nosedived into the icy water. I drowned.”
A cold chill filled the room and Luis shivered. “Sorry to bring that up. please continue with the killing story.”
“I turned around to head back when I noticed someone was watching me from the opposite side of the bridge.”
“No one could’ve been watching you. You’re a ghost. Normal people can’t see ghosts,” Luis spoke blandly, as though repeating a lesson to a child. He was met with a glare from Ghost Man.
“I know that, but this girl noticed me. At first I thought she was looking through me, like everyone always does, but she saw me. Our eyes met and she saw me.” He hesitated, a small smile at the corner of his lips before turning into a frown. “Without warning, she stepped into the street and a truck hit her. She died.”
Luis waited for Ghost Man to continue, silence filling the room. When Ghost Man didn’t continue, Luis leaned forward onto his desk. “That’s it? She walked into he street and was hit by a truck?”
“And because you thought she could see you, it places the blame of her death on you?”
“And you came to me, because?”
Ghost Man placed a small card on the desk and pushed it towards Luis. Luis stared at the small, rectangular paper, one of his business cards. He could see his name and job title reflecting the light from his desk lamp.
Written in red ink, in beautiful cursive next to his name was a single word.
Luis placed his finger on the card and tapped it lightly. “Who gave you this?”
Smiling, happy to know something Luis didn’t, Ghost Man crossed his arms. “A helpful person who appeared when I was lost. She told me you could help.”
“I still don’t understand what you want me to do. It sounds to me like the girl was suicidal. Those close to death sometimes gain vision to see spirits. It’s rare, but does happen.”
“The woman who gave me your card said you would help me,” Ghost Man insisted.
Luis grabbed the card from his desk and held it so Ghost Man could see the red ink. “And how can I help you? Do you want me to arrest you? Pray for your soul? It’s pointless to do the former and won’t help to do the latter. So what do you want me to do?” He threw the card at Ghost Man.
“I need to know if I killed her,” Ghost Man said, catching the business card before it fell to the floor.
“I need to know for sure. You speak to the newly dead. Find out.”
“It’s been over an hour. It may be too late,” Luis said, leaning back in his chair. “There are rules to all this, you know.”
“Can’t you at least try?”
“Why do you need to know so badly? It sounds pretty cut and dry to me. She was suicidal. She saw you, probably didn’t even realize you were a ghost, and then killed herself. Easy peasy. As a bonus, I won’t charge you for this appointment.”
“Charge me?” Ghost Man’s voice raised an octave in fear.
“Joking. Thank you for your interest and time. Make sure you watch out for that small step when you leave. Oh, I guess you don’t have to worry about that.” Luis motioned for Ghost Man to leave.
Instead of leaving, Ghost Man moved around the desk to stand next to Luis. He stared down at him with pleading eyes. “I have to know for sure. She said you would help me.”
“Who’s this woman who gave you my card? Does she have a name?” Luis asked, frustrated.
“She didn’t give me a name. But she told me if you refused I should say…hold on.” Ghost Man pulled out a small notebook from his pocket and flipped through it.
Luis whistled. “That’s new. Never seen a ghost take notes before.”
“She gave me this, too. Told me it might be handy for me to write down interesting things. Here it is.” He stopped on a page and squinted as he read. “Thou art but a fool to complain, you spend your speech and waste your brain.”
Luis slammed his hands on his desk, making Ghost Man jump and almost drop his notebook. Slowly standing, Luis spoke low with controlled anger. “Treasa. You spoke with Treasa?”
“She didn’t give me a name. But she said to say those words if you wouldn’t agree to help me.”
“Of course she did. He that trustest in his Strength, she him deceiveth at the length. Both Strength and Beauty forsaketh me.” Luis released a long, annoyed sigh. “Fine, I’ll go to the bridge and I’ll try to speak to your dead girl. But if I can’t bring her spirit out, that’s it. You’ll have to accept it wasn’t your fault and move on…metaphorically, not literally. Sorry.”
Ghost Man stepped away from Luis and shrugged. “The girl’s death isn’t what’s keeping me here. I haven’t found the reason yet.”
“One thing at a time.”
Luis opened his drawer and pulled out a small pouch. He walked to the cabinet by the door and opened it. A black coat and scarf were hung carefully. He placed the pouch in the coat’s pocket and grabbed the scarf. He wrapped the warm cloth around his neck and pulled the coat from its hanger.
Opening a small drawer built into the door of the cabinet, Luis grabbed the two items inside; a silver and black pocket watch and a pair of glasses with no lenses. He placed the pocket watch in his shirt pocket and the glasses on top of his head. He pulled the coat on and closed the cabinet.
“What’s your name, Ghost Man?”
“Let’s get going, Jared. I don’t want to be out when the sun goes down.” Luis opened the door to his office and waved Jared through. “Too many things like to come out when it gets dark.”
∗ ∗ ∗
The bridge crossing the lake doubled as a path for people as well as cars. It split the lake into two halves with archways to allow boats passage to either side. The walkways placed on either side of the double-lane road were wide to provide plenty of room from the actual street. The curbs were built slightly higher retain normal to assist in preventing accidental sideswipes, though locals wanted to build actual walls to separate the street from the walkways.
After what happened earlier that day, many would probably get their wish.
Traffic was backed up on both ends of the bridge as police worked quickly to clear the accident debris at the center. The ambulance, carrying the dead girl’s corpse, had already left, but traffic was still being controlled as workers cleaned the remnants of blood and car debris from the road.
A tow truck readied to pull the wrecked truck away. A large dent in the front of the truck and dark stains on the hood and fender was the only evidence of the accident. The owner of the truck had been questioned and sent to the hospital in a police officer’s car to be treated for minor cuts, bruises, and shock.
The walkways were still closed. Yellow police tape kept civilians from the bridge. No one was allowed to cross. No matter how angrily they yelled into the faces of the police officers standing guard.
Luis stood back from the crowd, peering past the police officers, trying to get a look at the accident scene. It was difficult with the large number of people standing in front of him and the cars slowly moving across the bridge.
Standing next to him, ignored by everyone around him, Jared stared at the bridge with a look of fear and, even though he was a ghost, his face appeared a little green.
“You feeling all right for this?” Luis asked.
Jared nodded. “It’s strange being back so soon. I was hoping we’d get here when they were done.”
Luis glanced up at the overcast sky and sighed. Pulling out the pouch from his coat pocket, he nodded his head in the direction of the police. “How long did it take the police to arrive?”
He opened the pouch and pulled out a small, hard case. He opened it to reveal two rows of tiny slots with four pairs of lenses securely placed in each.
“Not long. There was a police vehicle nearby that saw the accident, called it in and an ambulance arrived within fifteen minutes,” Jared said, speaking slowly as he remembered events.
Luis snapped yellow lenses into his frames and placed the glasses over his eyes. He placed the case and pouch back in his coat pocket. “When did you see Treasa?”
Those standing close enough to hear Luis turned and stared at him oddly. To them, he was speaking only to himself. They soon ignored him, thinking he may have one of those blue tooth headsets on or was just crazy. They preferred to think the former.
“Once the ambulance arrived, I ran away. The reality I killed the girl hit me and I panicked. That woman found me wandering on that bank.” He pointed to the edge of the lake to their left. Trees covered the area surrounding the bridge, but a hundred yards further out and the trees gave way to the yards of homes.
Luis returned his attention to the police working at the accident site. A few were directing traffic. With only one lane available, backed up traffic was unavoidable. It didn’t help the cars driving past the scene of the accident were rubbernecking and slowing to a crawl as though eager to see the destruction.
Human nature at its finest, thought Luis before saying aloud. “They should be finished soon. Though I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to bring the girl’s spirit out.”
“Sounding so unsure of yourself, Chancellor? How unlike you,” a melodic voice whispered in his ear.
Turning abruptly, Luis hit the wall of the bridge with his back. He stared into the yellow tinted face of Treasa. Her long, wavy black hair was held back from her face with a purple scarf, complete with gold pieces dangling on her forehead. A tiny jewel sat on her forehead, matching the crystals around her neck. Her dress would touch the ground, but she held it up to keep the cloth from becoming dirty.
She wore a stylish black jacket over her dress to protect against the cold and held an open black and purple parasol in her left hand. Her eyes, dark gray, were filled with an intelligence that seemed too old for such a young face.
She looked like a gypsy fortuneteller stereotype from old TV shows and movies. But of course, that was what she wanted everyone to think. It helped draw in curious clients and protected her from overly serious fanatics.
People standing around stared at her in awe. It was unusual to see someone dressed in such a way. When they realized they’d been staring they quickly turned back to the excitement on the bridge.
“Treasa, speak of the devil. Or do you prefer witch?” Luis smiled.
“I prefer neither. I’m glad my message got you out of that disgusting office.”
Luis laughed. “Beauty goeth fast away hie; She promised with me to live and die.”
A playful smile formed on Treasa’s lips before her eyes focused on the ghost man. “Jared Greene, a pleasure to see you again.”
Jared waved at her, meekly. “Thank you for your guidance.”
“Don’t thank me, yet.” She moved closer to Luis and her gray eyes watched the police officers and clean up crews. “What can you see?”
Luis’s eyes moved over the scene hungrily. He could see Jared had been speaking the truth. The girl had been standing at the edge of the walkway. She walked into the road where the truck hit her and dragged her several feet before the driver was able to stop. She died instantly and, luckily, no one else was hurt.
There were no signs of anyone accidentally hitting her or anything supernatural being involved. Though from so far away, he couldn’t be one hundred percent sure about the second fact.
“Everything’s pointing to what I thought earlier. Suicide,” Luis said, placing the glasses on his head. “But to satiate the customer’s order, I’ll wait until I get a closer look before changing it from ninety-nine percent to one hundred percent certain.”
Treasa smiled and grabbed his arm, leaning her parasol to the side so she didn’t hit Luis in the head with it. She leaned her head on his shoulder and giggled. “That’s why I chose you, Chancellor. Because I knew you wouldn’t take anything less than one hundred percent certainty.”
Luis glanced at her youthful face and his heart fluttered in his chest. He cursed in his head and forced his eyes away. Another small giggle escaped Treasa’s lips and she squeezed his arm.
Twenty minutes passed before everything was finished. Police cars left the scene, except for one. The officer who belonged to it took down the police tape blocking the pedestrian walkways before hopping into his car and driving away, allowing traffic to resume.
As soon as the tape was gone, the horde of people split into three discernible groups. Those who needed to cross, those who wanted to get closer to where the accident happened, and those who only wanted to see the action. The last of the three didn’t even bother crossing the bridge and instead headed back to their homes or parked cars.
Luis, Treasa, and Jared waited until the crowds dispersed before following the small group brave enough to walk on the side of the fatal accident. No one seemed to have known the dead girl, but weren’t surprised someone had finally died on the bridge due to the walkways being completely open to the street.
“Maybe now they’ll finally build a fence or wall to protect pedestrians,” an older woman said, loudly. She wanted everyone to hear her and agree with her as though she were the first to think of such a great plan.
As they walked, Luis changed the yellow lenses from his glasses to purple and pulled out black leather gloves. Treasa held his arm as they walked and the stares the two received went ignored by them. Jared stayed behind them, fear shaking his shoulders.
“Are you having a trouble crossing?” Treasa asked, without turning around.
“A little. Truthfully, I haven’t crossed a bridge since my death until today,” Jared answered. “I always turned back when I reached the beginning. Like something was stopping me.”
“Sometimes it’s difficult for a ghost to return to where they died. The memory becomes too powerful and can overwhelm them,” Luis explained. “Though I’m guessing this wasn’t the exact bridge you died on.”
Shaking his head, Jared moved to Treasa’s side. “The bridge where I crashed crosses a different lake a few miles away. I just prefer walking along the lake rather than over it.”
The three came to a stop when they reached the middle of the bridge. The cleanup crew had done a good job. The only signs an accident occurred were skid marks from the truck stopping, small shards of glass, and other tiny parts from the truck. Though even the most careful of cleaners still tended to miss drops of blood if they didn’t look carefully enough.
And a drop was trapped din the crack between the curb and the street.
“Ready?” Treasa asked, excitement filling her voice.
Luis placed the purple glasses over his eyes and pulled the silver and black pocket watch from his shirt pocket. “Don’t get too excited.” He pulled away from Treasa and put his black leather gloves on.
People stopped to watch the two oddly dressed couple standing at the sight of the horrible accident. An old woman slowly shook her head at them and Luis could almost hear an old, grandmotherly voice say, “Shame, shame,” over and over in his head.
Shaking the guilt filling his mind, Luis gazed down at the blood drop and held his watch directly over it. He opened it and the strange hands spun slowly. As they moved faster and faster, Luis lowered the watch until he held only the end of the chain. He spoke strange words under this breath, calling for the girl’s spirit.
Moving back from him, Treasa hopped up to sit on the wall of the bridge, pulling her dress around her. She rested her parasol on her shoulder and watched Luis with a wide smile. She motioned Jared to move closer to her, giving Luis space.
One minute passed. A cold breeze blew from behind Luis and the hands of the watch stopped. He held the watch upwards by the chain, falling silent. He stared at where the hands landed and closed the watch.
“So? Where is she?” Jared stepped forward.
Treasa watched Luis carefully, her smile slowly fading.
“It’s been too long since she passed. I can’t call her spirit.” Luis placed the watch back in his shirt pocket and took the purple glasses off. “I’m sorry.”
Shock and utter disbelief crossed Jared’s face. “But…but I have to know if I killed her.”
“I’m sorry. I know it isn’t what you wanted to hear, but I can assure you. From everything I can see here, it was a suicide. Nothing more. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Jared shook his head and looked around the bridge, as though believing the girl was only hiding. He read to the edge and peered over. He looked back to the opposite side and ran across. Cars zoomed through him without notice. He peered over the edge of the opposite side and turned to Luis and Treasa, who hopped off the wall and moved next to Luis.
“Try from here,” he called. “Try one last time from here and I’ll accept what you say.”
“It’s pointless, Jared,” Luis yelled over the passing traffic. “The strongest connection is where she died, not thirty feet away.”
Pedestrians jumped at his shouting and stared at him confused.
A comforting hand rested on Luis’s shoulder. “Humor him, Chancellor. Remember your promise,” Treasa spoke softly.
“I didn’t promise this.”
Angrily, Luis groaned and turned his head from left to right. He watched the cars for a moment before noticing a break in both lanes of traffic. When the opening came he, grabbing Treasa more roughly by the arm than he intended, and Treasa bolted across the street.
Honking from angry drivers, having to slow to allow them their moment of jaywalking, drew more attention from others walking on the bridge. A couple nearly leapt out of the two strangely dressed people’s way when they made it to the opposite walkway.
“Let’s do this quickly before the police come back to arrest us for that,” Luis grumbled, placing his glasses on and pulling the watch from his pocket.
There wasn’t blood to focus the watch on. Instead, Luis tried to let the watch find its own focus. He opened it and the hands moved, slowly. He lowered the watch until he held the end of the chain and spoke softly. He called for the girl’s spirit, reaching deep inside to pull out his power.
The hands of the watch spun faster and faster as he spoke and a cold breeze moved across the bridge. It reached Luis and instead of continuing past, it circled him. Starting at his face, it moved down his body to his arm and down the chain to the watch.
The watch closed sharply, stopping Luis’s chant. His eyes shot up and stared at the young girl standing at the center of the road. She looked about sixteen or seventeen, just as Jared described her. She wore a thick coat and floppy hat on her head. Her eyes were unfocused, but aimed in the direction of the watch still hanging from Luis’s hand.
“You did it,” Jared said, his voice a whisper.
Luis didn’t respond. He couldn’t tear his eyes from the girl.
“Chancellor?” Treasa asked, cautiously.
“You didn’t kill her, Jared.” Luis’s voice came out hoarse. The girl’s eyes were slowly focusing on the watch, curiously.
“You can’t just say it. You have to ask her. Unless I hear it from her mouth I won’t believe you,” Jared demanded, storming up to Luis.
“She can’t speak. She isn’t a ghost.”
Shaking his head, Jared turned to Treasa who stood as still as a statue. Her parasol was closed and she squeezed it in her hands.
“I don’t understand. Is she isn’t a ghost, what is she?” he asked.
The girl raised her hand and pointed to the watch. Her eyes ventured to Luis and an odd sensation filled his thoughts. He lowered his arm.
“Chancellor. You have to send her back,” Treasa spoke, her voice filled with warning.
Through his purple lenses, Luis could see a shape standing behind the girl. It grew the longer he stared and formed into a figure with razor-like teeth. Spikes stuck out of its flesh and its black eyes seemed never ending.
The odd sensation filled Luis’s mind and he realized it was the being behind the girl causing it. The being raised its arm, mimicking the girl. Only it pointed at Luis, not the watch.
A heavy weight filled Luis’s chest and his free arm rose to grab at it, only to squeeze the thick cloth of his coat. His lungs tightened and his breathing grew shallow. The odd sensation filling his mind became thunderous, filling him, making his body feel as though it were vibrating. His eyes rose to the blackness of the being’s eyes.
“We’ve come for you, Everyman,” the girl spoke. A second voice echoed hers, putting power into the words. “Come with us.”
“What’s going on?” Jared asked.
“Chancellor. Send her back. Now,” Treasa said, her voice filling with command.
The weight in Luis’s chest took the power of the girl’s words and filled him. He could feel it urging him forward, encouraging him to go to the girl and the being inside her. The sensation coursing through his body echoed the words, filling his mind and he realized he wanted to go with them.
They had come for him. He had been waiting for them, hadn’t he? Now he could go with them.
“I…want to,” he whispered, gasping as the tightening of his lungs cut off his breaths. “I want to go with you.” He took a step closer to the curb, dropping his pocket watch to the ground.
“Come with us, Everyman,” the girl’s powerful voice repeated.
Luis reached out with his free hand. “Yes.”
A hand grabbed his outstretched arm and spun him around as a van zoomed past, inches from where his hand had been. He was thrown to the edge of the bridge and hit the cement wall hard. His glasses flew from his face, dropping and disappearing into the cold water of the lake.
Gasping for air, Luis grabbed the wall and turned around. His knees buckled beneath him and he fell to the ground. He leaned his back against the wall, glancing at the figure of Treasa standing between him and the girl, holding a large quartz crystal in front of her.
Jared appeared at Luis’s side, kneeling. “What just happened?”
Luis’s mind cleared and seeing Jared reminded him of why he was truly there. He watched Treasa intently. The girl shrieked as light from Treasa’s crystal surrounded her. The being roared, adding an otherworldly effect to the girl’s screams. Both disappeared.
The cold breeze stopped and Treasa turned to Luis, placing her quartz crystal in a small bag tied around her waist. “I had a feeling I would need the protection crystal. Good thing I listen to my feelings.”
People had stopped and stared at Luis and Treasa with wide eyes. To them, everything had looked strange. They couldn’t see the spirits or the light from Treasa’s crystal. The two had appeared to be standing, facing the road, until Treasa threw Luis agains the wall of the bridge.
Those who swathed thought the two were mad. Its as the main reason Luis didn’t like doing his work in a highly populated place.
“What the hell was that?” Jared demanded.
Luis tried to stand, wincing at the pain in his abdomen from hitting the wall. He braced himself with the wall and struggled to his feet.
Noticing his slow movement, Treasa faced Jared. “You didn’t kill that girl. She was possessed by an evil spirit and that’s what killed her.” She walked to the edge of the bridge, her dress brushing Luis’s leg, and peered down into the water. “You lost your glasses.”
“Why did it kill her?”
Luis removed his leather gloves and leaned down to pick up his pocket watch. “You were used as bait to lure me here.”
“Lure you here? Why?”
“My main job isn’t exactly something evil spirits are jumping for joy about.” Opening his watch, Luis relaxed a little. It hadn’t been damaged, but the hands were still spinning quickly. “We need to leave before it has time to regain its strength.”
“First, I think you owe someone an apology,” Treasa said, holding Luis’s glasses out to him. Water dripped from the lenses, but otherwise it was undamaged.
“Thank you.” Taking the glasses, Luis met Jared’s eyes. “I’m sorry for being such an ass earlier.”
“I’m just happy to know I wasn’t the cause of that poor girl’s death. But what happens now? What’s going to happen to her?”
Pulling a cloth from his coat pocket, Luis dried off the lenses of his glasses. He took ht case from the pouch and opened it, replacing the purple lenses with rose colored ones. “Forget about her, Ghost Man. Once an evil spirit takes a soul the only ones who can save it is someone in tune with the spiritual world…and still alive. That helps a lot.”
Rage colored Jared’s cheeks slightly pink making him appear more alive. “So you’re going to let that thing keep her?”
“I didn’t say that.” Luis put his glasses on, placing the case and pouch back in his pocket. “I’m telling you to stay out of this. If you try to help her you’ll only end up in her position, too. Leave this to the professionals.”
Treasa smiled at Jared and leaned her head to the side as she opened her parasol. The gold dangles jingled as they hit each other and her gray eyes sparkled. “It’s an Everyman’s job to protect the spiritual realm and the living realm from evil spirits like that. We’ll save her, Jared. I promise.”
Luis searched the street where the girl and evil spirit had stood. He could see traces of both, but he focused on the trail left by the evil spirit. It was a strong spirit, powerful. He hadn’t been tempted like that since he was a child.
A small voice at the back of his mind laughed before speaking, excitedly, I told you they’d come for you.
Luis’s blood ran cold and he turned his head to the left.
Sitting on the cement wall, smiling wide enough to show teeth, was a man wearing strange clothes. The top half of his face and neck were black, as though painted, and made his startling golden-yellow eyes stand out like gems. His black clothes cluing to his frame tightly. A large hood covered his head.
“Chancellor? Is something wrong?” Treasa asked, noticing Luis’s odd change in behavior.
Ignoring the man on the wall, Luis faced Treasa. “Everything’s fine. We should go. Now.”
“I’m coming with you,” Jared said.
“I want to help.”
“I told you, there’s nothing you can do to help. You’ll only be taken by the evil spirit.”
“I think you should accept his offer. You never know, he may prove to be very helpful,” Treasa said.
Yeah, ghosts are always helpful against evil spirits. Right, Chancellor?
Luis grimaced at the playful tone added to his name and tried to control a strong surge of anger inside. He fought to keep his eyes forward and not turn to glare at the strange man speaking directly into his head.
“Fine. As long as we leave now.”