Our investigation into the pig‘s little ghost problem has been making progress. Choppy, stunted progress, but progress nonetheless. Johnathan’s new friend Lee was able to talk to Paula LeMain in person (if you can call it that), while I distracted Terrence by doing some more sketches of that asshole. I did well enough on the sketches, but they ended up being a disappointment. The White Man’s face is generic as his suit was distinctive, and that’s a goddamn shame. The sketch does bear a resemblance to someone suspected for other crimes by the MPD, so I guess I’ll just have to hang tight until more information comes my way. Right now I’m preoccupied with Paula, but once that little project is completed to the Creep’s satisfaction, I can move right back to figuring out why I died, and how I can get me a little payback.
Lee got a little information about Paula. His biggest problem is that he’s too damn polite for his own good, tiptoeing around that ghost’s feelings like it will get him somewhere. Caution will get us nowhere –- a lesson I think we’ve all learned since. Lee says that Paula insisted that she stuck around because Terrence wants her around, but she seems to be hiding something -– some other reason. An unsolved murder, perhaps? She refused to speak further, and Lee was too fucking chivalrous to force the issue. A start, at least.
We met at the Oakland Trattoria that night to discuss our findings. Gabby and Johnathan had gone to North Shore Funeral Services, where they’d taken Paula for her visitation. Closed-casket funeral, they said. She was cremated offsite at Burgess & Burgess funeral home out in Tosa. While getting this information, they managed to arouse suspicion, and Gabby even gave the receptionist her real name. She has a while to go before she’s comfortable with the semi-legal or frankly illegal bits of things. I will rejoice when she learns to lie.
At that point, we still had no real leads but the body. We had suspicions that there was something other than her undying love for Terrence that kept her in this plane, and we knew that she thought that Terrence knew she was there. Burgess & Burgess seemed like a good place to start, but Gabby and Johnathan’s most recent escapade showed that making inquiries at a funeral home can be seen as somewhat suspicious.
So we broke company that night with plans to reconvene on Saturday, because apparently everyone else has day jobs. I need one eventually, of course, but I have enough left to live comfortably for a month or so, more if I consciously save money. Two of my krewe talked to other Sin-Eaters about how to move forward, Gabby to Kitana and Lee to Paul. Paul told Lee something very important –- that the brothers who own Burgess & Burgess are like us, ridden by geists. Paul even said that the elder brother, one Emmanuel Burgess, talks to the cadavers that come in. That report could be valuable, revealing not only what Paula chooses to tell us, but what her body looked like when it came in, her exact cause of death … in short, could be a windfall for our investigation.
That may seem macabre, but it was nothing compared to the other line of investigation. Paula insisted that she needed to return to the bedroom –- the only idea we had was that the bedroom she’d mentioned was the bedroom she shared with Terrence. We ascertained that the house that Terrence lived in now was the same one that he lived in two years ago, at the time of Paula’s death. Getting in undetected was a problem, until Lee tentatively suggested something that, had it not been for the last two weeks, would have seemed unthinkable. Lee thought that if we buried him alive, he might be able to unhinge his spirit form from his earthly body and wander as pure spirit. I’m sure this seemed somewhat more plausible to me than it did to Gabby or Johnathan – after all, journeys to the spirit world operate on the same principle. We decided to split forces. In an emergency, we’d need someone to stay with Lee and dig his body out of the ground if he failed utterly, as none of us knew how dire the consequences could be if Lee was wrong, or if he messed up. Johnathan, the strongest of us, stayed to help Lee, and Gabby and I decided to visit Burgess & Burgess earlier that night.
We arrived in the late afternoon. It was sprinkling rain as we pulled in, so I pulled my bike up under a tree to shield it from the downpour, if one came up. Gabby and I approached the front of the building, which had the ubiquitous funeral-home pillars in the front of it. The fake, sanctimonious dignity of it was, frankly, amusing. If what has happened to us says anything, it’s that there is no dignity in death. Drops of blood on a Jackson Polluck — that’s all we are, in the end.
The man who opened the door looked like he spent the best part of his day in front of a mirror. Nick, I supposed, the younger Burgess. Look up “lush” and crossreference it with “twat” on Urban Dictionary and I guarantee you his face will come up, grinning like only a fucking white boy can, like he owns the fucking world. He stole something from me when I touched him, something I do not take kindly to. We outlined our business to him, and he took us down to see his brother in the morgue.
I called Fitz “The Creep” before, and I don’t take that back, but he don’t hold a candle to Emmanuel Burgess. I have no doubts that he actually speaks to the bodies he dresses for death, but that doesn’t make his solicitude towards them any less sickening. We asked him about Paula’s case, and he had spoken to her. Lucky for us. The flip side, of course, is that by asking for this information, we have to swear to some future boon, to be performed whenever Emmanuel or Nick call in the favor. I don’t enjoy being in debt, but this seems like the kind of rite of passage it’s not wise to put off. I got a second lease at life, and now I refuse to live in half-measures. It’s all or nothing now. I convinced Gabby to promise to the favor, and we came away with a file written up by Emmanuel about Paula’s condition when she came in, what she’d said … Hopefully the puzzle pieces start falling together, because I’m getting fucking tired of tiptoeing around this mystery. I’m ready to blow this shit up. Bring it.