Festival Parking

The Dying Breed That Still Believes
An entry in Kaya Sparrowhawk's journal

The pig emailed us the other day. Said he had some work for us to do, given our … unique talents. Lee and Gabby were all for pursuing it, and although I don’t trust cops as far as I can throw them (and I am getting better at throwing people, mind you), this pig is too stiff with his own honor to double-cross us. Plus, to him we must seem supernatural.

Hey, I guess we are.

We decide to meet at Gabby’s and carpool from there in Lee’s car. Except, on the way, I was followed. I know I was, and I know the make and model of the damn car. But when I turned to catch a glimpse of the driver? I look her … him … square in the eyes, and then … pull up into Gabby’s driveway, not remembering how I got there.

I have got to remember that although I might get cocky, we are not the only supernatural motherfuckers out here.

So the first thing the pig pulls on us when we get to the precinct is something I wasn’t expecting. Turns out, when we were looking for that watch for Veronica, that Lee and Gabby took the information I pulled out of thin air and went and blackmailed someone. Only, Gabby gave him her real name, and he filed a blackmail report. Now the cop made it disappear, which really surprised me. I thought the kind of guy who would cover up a woman’s murder wouldn’t think twice about turning someone in for blackmail charges. But he surprised me, I’ll give him that.

He gave us some info on a haunting in Tosa. A woman and her foster son, living in a house haunted by what sounds like the spirit of the child killed by her drunk-driving ex-husband, who’s rotting away somewhere in Green Bay right about now, not that there’s that much to do in Green Bay even if you aren’t incarcerated. So the pig wants us to do something about it. Interesting.

We reconvened at Tea Leaves and talked it over. And that’s when something strange happened. I didn’t see it – my back was to the damned window – but Gabby and Lee did. Someone tagged right outside the shop. A little man, no arms or legs to speak of but a gigantic hat, and some kind of writing underneath. I couldn’t care less about the writing, but when we went outside to look, I recognized the drawing as some kind of Mayan icon, a god of death. Couldn’t remember what it was called, of course, but there it was. And lying atop the leaves in front of the freshly-painted figure was an envelope, with a definitive black thumbprint on it, and a phone number.

It was like getting a girl’s number and having to tell your wingman that this one’s for me, bro, because she’s not into dudes. Lee and Gabby and I talked about calling, like it was a group decision, but in the end, I knew that this was for me. This was my gig, and I was the one who called the phone number on the envelope, and I was the one who got the invitation. Because I’m the one who got herself into this by asking the wrong question of the wrong people. About the wrong person.

La Madrina would like to see me, the voice on the other end of the line says.

I agree to meet tomorrow. I know enough to agree without protest, to show respect. Because if this woman is in with the cartels, she could have me killed in a second. Just send another white suit and bam, my guts could paint the street red.

So the next morning, I cooperate. I get up when they call and am chauffeured by none other than Javier and Teresa, both of whom I’ve met. I relax, more than somewhat.

We get to our destination, and I’m ushered out into a small waiting room. Dark, with a strange idol in the corner – the same as the graffiti we saw last night, and surrounded by offerings. Cigarettes, little bottles of liquor. Ofrendas for the dead.

I hope to be so lucky, when I go.

When I was finally called in, Menchu surprised me. I don’t know what it was exactly. It’s not that she didn’t want something from me; everything in this new world seems to run on a system of favors-given, favors-owed. But for once, I didn’t feel out of place, like I did when Fitz gave us the speech about ushering the dead to the other side of the Big Fucking Lake, or when the big man tried to impress me with his money (and I admit, I was impressed.) For the Great Lakes kids, it’s a job. A calling, if you’re charitable. For the big man, hell, even for Lise, it’s a bank account. But for Menchu, it seems like something sacred, a sacred mystery. And that’s something I get. It’s not that I’ve been happier since my death. But I have been awakened to the world by the injury I sustained, and I have been strengthened by Red Arrow Woman.

There are so many things I don’t understand, and can’t, not even with my wits and my computer. I’ve watched my language die, and even though they didn’t teach it in public school I know how much of my culture has been lost, has simply been erased. Is that just? Is that fair?

No. And I sure as hell won’t produce any justice by doing ghostly police work or lining my pockets. What I can do, though, is uncover the secrets. Bring back the old ways, the secrets that all have forgotten. Then we’ll see who holds the power. Then we’ll see who balances the scales.

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Halloweenhead
In which a stone is overturned, Kaya unintentionally trips out, and the Krewe encounters a door

An entry in Kaya Sparrowhawk’s rapidly-expanding notebook, left under her nightstand this time.



The big man gave me my assignment yesterday. I had an enigma inside an envelope — a photograph, a woman’s name, and the implicit assignment. So I did a little research. Ana Menchu, apparently hasn’t been seen since she left a place called Tlaxcala on the South Side. Owns property down there, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot about community. I mean, goddamnit, Lee is joining the Krewe, Gabby is best friends with Veronica everyone, and I have … Leon. Leon and his assignment. So I thought, who do I know in the South Side?

So I call up Javier. Aha, I think. Finally, not just me and my computer. Is this what other people feel like when they have social lives? So I ask him about Ana Menchu.

Click.

Well, that’s interesting. So I do a little more digging with My Electronic Best Friend. Turns out Menchu owns a lot of property, some of it through proxies. She donates a fuckton of money, though. Not really a landlord’s thing, usually. I mean, houses are a living, but still. Anyway, I dig a little deeper. I’m browsing through old crime statistics and spot an anomaly. Now, crime analysis is not usually my thing, but what it almost looks like to me is that Menchu buys up huge chunks of neighborhoods. Then, in those neighborhoods, crime stats decrease. Not generally, but violent crime goes down. But – and this is where it gets stranger – estimated drug use goes up.

Hm.

I am not an expert on drug distribution, but this sounds like a pretty sweet deal for Menchu. She buys a neighborhood, starts distributing, and brings in some enforcers … So I text Jimmy, who is pretty much my one-stop-shop when it comes to sketchy druggie types.

He’s home, we match, and get down to talking. Jimmy paints a pretty picture about Menchu. It seems pretty much like it looks – she buys, she sells, she enforces. One other thing, though – people are wary of her, and she runs this shit like a business. None of this sample-from-the-stash stuff (and both Jimmy and I know that using your own stock can take a Native down, fast) – Menchu runs a motherfucking business, and a profitable one at that.

So that’s about it, and eventually I decide to get my ass home. I stumble out of the door, and it’s funny, because I have a policy about hallucinogens. I don’t do them. Not since … but when I walk out the door of Jimmy’s apartment, I know that somehow, something’s gone horribly wrong. Maybe I drank a bit much, maybe Jimmy got burned on the weed he bought, maybe … whatever. Because I am in a silent Milwaukee. Nobody on the streets. Me, alone, with a red flicker hovering over a bridge. I run to meet Red Arrow Woman.

She says … well, she only says a few words, but they lay everything out in front of me. Two paths. Sounds like a cliche, right? But it’s not a cliche when you’re the only person in Milwaukee, listening to a dead woman talk. She didn’t help me choose between the paths, but she did say one thing – that either path would take me to my destination. And that’s when I looked up and saw him.

The only people in the city were me, the Man in White, and Red Arrow Woman. And when I see the Man in White, I turn back to Red Arrow Woman, only to see his cold eyes staring back at me.

And suddenly – a car horn, and I awaken, flat on my back in the parking lot outside my apartment. Someone’s honking their horn at me, and I scramble back up to my apartment, unsure of what’s just happened.



When Gabby calls me, I’m not doing anything but lying in comatose shock. So when she says she found a door into the ground, I jump at the chance to get out of the house and do something that doesn’t involve too much thinking. So I meet Gabby and Lee downtown, and Gabby shows us this door.

She says the Man in White led her to it, looked her straight in the eyes and disappeared.

When we clamber down the long ladder, we are met by another door which we cannot open. I try, leaning up the door and willing it open, but my failure to open it saps me of any will to try once more.

But … what is up with the Man? Is he wholly supernatural? When I still thought that he was some asshole sent by some cartel to get me to stop snooping around in their business, I had no problem envisioning this guy’s death. But now … could he have been the midwife to my resurrection?

I obviously am in way over my head. Everything that happens simply confuses me more, until I’m not sure which way is up or who I should really trust. Sanders wants something from me, and although he’s all smiles, I still can’t see past his mask.

I don’t know who to talk to about this.

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What Lies Below Lies Ahead

I remember the first time I came to a door to the Underworld… It was strange. I felt compelled to go through the door. I don’t know why, but I was compelled. But let me go back to how I came to the door for the first time.

I had just visited Veronica after Lee and I completed a favor for her. We had gotten a watch for her to help her in her goal of passing on ghost. On my way home I saw a man in a white suit. I saw him and I was reminded of Kaya and her tale of her death. I could hear her in my mind, describing the event that sent her spiraling into a fit of fiery revenge. I had to do something, I couldn’t just let him walk away. If there was anything I could find out, anything that I could do to help her get peace of mind, I had to help.

I followed him. As I followed him he seemed just out of reach. I couldn’t quite reach him, but of course I couldn’t go to fast or I risked him noticing me. I continued to follow him. As I followed him the street suddenly became a desolate wasteland dotted by the occasional car. I followed him and saw him stop in a parking lot. I hid behind a corner. When I looked back he was gone.

I went to the spot he had been standing and found a door. I had to follow. I had to continue investigating. I called Lee and Kaya. I told Kaya about what had happened. She was someone who I could trust and could talk to about parts of my life that I couldn’t talk to most people about. She was part of my group. We became Sin Eaters together. I wanted to help her.

We got to the door, but we ended up stuck… I hoped that I could continue to help Kaya in the way a good friend should.

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Dreams of Glass
"Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness, and cleanliness is godliness, and God is empty ... just like me."

Scrawled in a notebook, left on the floor near the foot of Kaya Sparrowhawk’s desk.

Jimmy says sometimes it’s best to just write the shit that’s bothering you out. He says that when he’s getting ticked about something, it helps him just let it go, especially if he’s baked. So let’s see how this goes. It can’t feel any worse than it usually does.

The big man was right. I don’t have the chops for it. I know how to dig up the dirt. When I’m on the computer, I get results. But he’s right. I don’t look like I fit in. Not even that, but I’m weak. Even when Red Arrow Woman helped me wrestle the pig, I couldn’t do it. No, that fucker almost beat me down. So yesterday I got a membership at the WAC and signed up for judo. I can’t just hide behind my computer. If that motherfucker comes back for me, or for anyone else, I want to be ready. And I want to be able to scare the shit out of the fucking pig.

I’m actually struggling to fight the anger, some days. It feels like it comes from nowhere. I am terrified that it’ll happen, that the wave of anger will finally catch up with me and knot my stomach until I can’t stand it anymore and I just lose it. I can’t say what I’ll do.

I can’t stand how draining it is to sit here and constantly wait. On the rare occasion that I’m not angry, I feel empty. So then I get high and forget about it all, till I come down from it. And then I’m angry again, and the world is not right, still, and it just irks me. So I’ll get smart. I’ll do Sanders’ errands, I’ll get help, and I will prevail. It’s the only way to make this go away.

Right now the team is working on a project for Veronica, which she told Gabby about. Not me, even though we already knew each other … Anyway, she needs a watch for a spook,, which we located in a pawn shop in the hood (thanks to Jimmy). Not sure what the next step is. The watch is kind of expensive. If we were obligated to shell out that much cash to set each spook to rest, there would be less Sin-Eaters that gave a shit about who was on the right side of the Lake of Death or whatever.

I’m more interested in what Sanders has for me to do. Still, I’m reluctant to tell Gabby or Lee about it. Lee’s about ready to join up with the Krewe and Gabby is getting better, but she still doesn’t understand. I admit my heart jumped when I heard that Veronica wasn’t in the Krewe … I had hoped … but then, it doesn’t matter. She wouldn’t be I don’t want to

The letter is interrupted by a mass of black scratch-outs, and the next inch or so is unreadable. It continues:

Fuck it. I need to get a job. Thinking too much is fucking with my head.

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Hungry Ghosts

Education is preparation for action.

That’s what my grandfather used to say. My mother never particularly liked the phrase, thinking it was bad for my study habits, but I think I’ve come to agree, especially after recent events. We had learned as much as was possible about the intriguing demise of Paula LeMain, not to mention the psychiatric histories of Detective LeMain and the late Arnold Arnhem. The time had come to act. The four of us headed over to Detective LeMain’s house to give Paula the rest that she and the world deserved and needed. Paula proved reluctant to let go. She became hostile rather quickly and possessed Terrence, who then turned on us during our efforts to assist. While Kaya and I wrestled with Terrence, Michaels thought fast and broke into the hidden part of the closet. With a prodigious show of strength, Michaels tore Arnold Arnhem’s diary in two, at which point things got—somehow—more surreal. The floor became a two-dimensional mirror into the Abyss, which Paula fell into, screaming. And eventually, things will return to some sense of normal.

But my mind has been focused more on what did not happen. Fitz had said that the best way to find my direction in this world would be to help a ghost move on, and he was right. Paula deserved peace, and who does not? Is it not our promised reward? I thought it would be rather simple: find what bothers a person most, what denies them peace, and work with them to help them move from their purgatory. But Paula’s case was nothing like that. She did not seem to want peace. She clung to Terrence like a drowning woman, and denied that anything was wrong. She would not go quietly, and was forced into being helped.

And worst yet, I cannot shake the feeling that this will not be the last time we encounter such a tortured spirit.

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The Jaws of Afterlife Swallows Those Unwilling

In college you do all the research, you look up everything you need to know, you study the rules and percentages of everything you have to present, and then you get exactly what you deserve for the amount of work you put in. The first time I sent a ghost to the afterlife I realized that ghosts don’t work like college does, and you’re going to have to understand more than just the facts in order to make it anywhere.

I was so against Sparrowhawk’s hacking in the beginning. The only reason I agreed was because it was the lesser of all evils. I now know this is a necessary evil to do the job that needs to be done. Breaking the law is never a good option, but when you’re dealing with something that most lawmakers don’t even know exist, well, sometimes you have to break the law.

We did everything we could, including Lee’s beautiful act of going incorporeal and finding out the very necessary fact of Arnold Anhem’s journal tying Paula to the corporeal world. We found out how to break the connections Paula had to the real world, and we decided that it was time to act.

In my mind it was very simple. We would talk to Terrence, talk to Paula, sort it out like “adults”, and then Paula would pass peacefully and happy. Of course, I was very naïve back then.

Paula clang to Terrence like a child to a blanket. When we started telling Terrence about everything going on, that we were trying to help Paula pass on. Paula would have none of it. She became enraged, furious that we would try and take everything that tied her to this world. She took control of Terrence and she came for us. We were destroying everything, and she had to preserve it.

Paula took control of Terrence, attempting to rid us of her house, of this world. She grabbed Terrence’s gun and came for us. I did the only thing I could think to do in a situation like that, I cowered. I had never expected the situation to become so ugly, as I thought that everyone was capable of being an “adult.” Ghosts aren’t so easy when it comes to removing them from the things that tie them to this world.

Sparrowhawk and Lee began to wrestle with Paula, attempting to remove her from Terrence’s body. Michaels broke down the wall that had sealed Arnhem’s journal and removed it from the pedestal upon which it sat. Michael’s began to tear apart the journal that tied part of Paula to this world and, this is where I knew something was wrong, the ground opened up. The jaws of the afterlife were going to take Paula whether she liked it or not. Sparrowhawk and Lee struggled with Paula, grabbing and reaching for her to pull her out of Terrence. Lee succeeded, but doomed Paula to a fate that I was never sure of.

Paula was eaten by the pit and removed from this world before she was ready. Terrence was free from her, but at what cost? All the while, what had I done? I sat there, cowering behind cover. I still think we killed her. We removed her before it was her time, before she was ready, and she was cast down to the afterlife before she could make the decision for herself. Destroying the ties a ghost has to the world kills them… and I cannot stand for that.

I have made it my aim to prevent ghosts from being destroyed, killed, before they are ready to move on. They have emotions, just like humans do, emotions that tie them to this world. It is our job to help them less go of the ties and send them happily to the afterlife. To help them pass of their own volition.

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Killer Cop
In which an unsatisfying conclusion is reached

Lee‘s little bit of grave dirt turned up some real pay dirt, if you know what I mean. We finally got a name we could use. Officer Arnhem, first name Arnold, friend of the couple. Very good friend, if you get my meaning. A quick search turned up tons of information. Arnold was indeed another cop, a close friend of Terrence’s since high school at Marquette. His dad was a cop, retired and pensioned, and Arnhem was all set to continue to follow in his father’s footsteps. Well, until he killed himself last year.

His death, just a year after Paula’s, fits uncomfortably well. Maybe the guilt drove him to suicide. Maybe he was murdered. Maybe he was driven to suicide by more esoteric means. Combined with the photographs on the walls of the BDSM room Lee found and the necro freak’s insistence that her injuries were consistent with a strangling rather than a laceration, Paula’s manner of death comes into obvious focus. She gets off on pain. Two pigs (surprise, surprise) get off on inflicting it. Pig gets too into it, pig loses control, pig kills Paula. Doesn’t matter if it’s Pig 1 or Pig 2, they’re both in on it. Then the they panic, need to cover it up. If it was Terrence who killed his wife, maybe Arnhem was close to spilling what really happened. If it was Arnhem, maybe Terrence felt the need to avenge her. Though why he wouldn’t murder-suicide that one, I don’t know. He’s just as guilty in that case.

His suicide means one other thing, too – shrinks. Cops get shrinks because everyone agrees that the pigs need ‘em — give a psychopath a gun and you’ll feel more comfortable if he goes to therapy every other week to work out his issues. Maureen Tinsdale, cop shrink – specializes in post-traumatic stress disorders and abuse issues. Sounds like our woman. How to get the information out of her – that’s the question.

On the weekends, Dr. Tinsdale works at the same hospital as Veronica (hell, I could have used a good PTSD shrink after I was gunned down in the street — but somehow I think she’s on a higher pay scale.) So once the krewe left my apartment that night, I shot Veronica a text. Turns out she was down at The Jazz Estate for a show, so I met her down there.

The band was good. Veronica even mentioned that the frontman was one of us. I got a beer and listened — the first time I’d been able to let go of it all since I died. Speaking with Veronica was like talking to an old friend. Maybe it’s because I saw her so soon after my death, but I feel comfortable with her in a way that’s almost strange. Scary. I don’t know.

Anyway, I explained our situation to Veronica, who said she knew Tinsdale. I outlined what we thought our options were – convincing her to give us the information was nigh on impossible, as I knew, and the two other options (intimidation and stealth) both fell on the wrong side of the law, and I knew the girl scout would pitch a fit. Of the two, Veronica seemed to think that money would work the best, but Maureen Tinsdale wouldn’t be cheap – a grand would do it, but who has that? Maybe the yuppie, but certainly not me. I knew it would be hard to convince him to invest in our little operation. Nobody likes to bankroll an investment with no real return. After that conversation, the rest of the night passed quickly.

The next day, we reconvened at Lee’s, where we had the most contentious argument yet about our course of action. As predicted, Gabby was squeamish on bribery, so Lee suggested that I attempt to access Tinsdale’s files remotely. It was such a long shot that I almost refused to try. What are the chances that she would have her files shared on the building’s network? What were the chances that her information would be stored digitally rather than in analog form? Not good, but thankfully for us, Maureen is as harebrained as she is greedy, and while her own notes seemed to be done on paper, she kept .mp3s of each interview in a shared folder on her network. I accessed Arnhem’s and LeMain’s and logged off.

Arnhem’s interviews started shortly after Paula’s death, and continue until the week before his suicide (?) the following year, whereupon LeMain’s begin. Listening to the endless bitch-and-moan of pigs is, frankly, not my thing. I tried, but in the end stopped after an hour or so of Arnhem’s bullshit. I got them the damn information. Let them sort through it.

Lee eventually got through all of the information, and the mystery finally began to take shape. Some time after Paula’s death (the cause of which is never discussed, interestingly enough) Arnhem started having fugue episodes, blacking out, showing up in random places and not remembering how he got there. These got worse with time. One time he found his tools gone. Another time he found his hands covered in plaster dust. Immediately before he killed himself, he got violent in Tinsdale’s office when she began prying. A week later, he was dead.

Which is when LeMain’s difficulties begin. His symptoms are eerily similar — missing time, waking up disoriented and scared. In the ensuing year his symptoms, too, have gotten worse. Last week’s session, he turned up wearing his wedding ring, and when Tinsdale asked him why he had no idea where it had come from. In short, it seemed as if LeMain was on the same track as Arnhem had been. It’s a tribute to Tinsdale’s immense stupidity that she didn’t make the connection and put the motherfucker on suicide watch — not that it would help.

At this point, only one thing mattered — discovering the truth about what happened to Paula. At this point, the time for tiptoeing around is finally over. We needed to talk to Terrence. I convinced the krewe to come with me for an intervention.

We staked out LeMain’s house — rather inexpertly, I’ll admit — but he didn’t seem to notice us when he came home at 11:00. Shortly afterwards, I came up to the door. I pretended like something had happened to me, and told him I needed to talk to him. When he noticed I wasn’t alone, I told him I’d been scared, and let him think what he would. Poor woman, spooked by some businessman in a white suit? Or is he really going after me again? Maybe he remembered Lee from the other time I’d come to see him, because he believed me and let us in.

Once in, everybody seemed to want to go shrink on him. I can’t pretend that we work well as a team. Everyone has their own agenda, and for a while nobody let anyone else talk. It was all so inane, and we weren’t getting anywhere, so after a while I couldn’t help but get fed up with the bullshit.

I stood up and asked the pig where his bedroom was. The bedroom that started all of this. He must have wanted to believe us, just a little bit, because he led us upstairs.

I turned to Lee. “Which wall?” He pointed.

Terrence: “How do you know about that?”

Lee started talking about his incorporeal jaunt, but I could have told him to save his breath. Either Terrence believed us or he didn’t. He looked as if he was beginning to believe us, anyway — babbling about how it wasn’t his fault, it was an accident, if they hadn’t covered it up Arnold would have gone to jail. The bile rises in my throat, and I know this is what I needed to know. This pig has confessed to covering up his wife’s murder. His wife, who loved him and trusted him. Her murder transforms him into nothing more than a gang rapist. This man deserves to die, deserves to be strangled as Paula was strangled, and maybe in those final gasping moments of life, he will understand.

Meanwhile, my krewe were still attempting to talk this through. Johnathan started babbling about the little black book, but it was too late; as Paula’s ghostly form edged towards Terrence he got fainter and fainter, and although Lee blended into twilight and tried to stop her, she melded into him and grabbed hold, which is when he grabbed his Glock.

I can’t explain what happened after that. Red Arrow Woman seemed to wrap wings around me, and my head filled with a roaring that wasn’t wholly unpleasant. My vision narrowed down to what was in front of me. I could smell Terrence’s fear. I know I didn’t get any taller, but my muscles seemed to bunch and knot until I felt like hurting, like hunting.

I sprang at Terrence, trying to wrestle him to the ground. I could sense Lee to my left, attempting to grab the Glock away from Terrence, and dimly, as if from a long way off, felt-saw-heard the gun discharge, but I didn’t care. As I wrestled the pig, I could hear faint crashing noises behind me — the sounds of a wall being kicked to pieces. I barely felt the pig’s teeth as they sank into my arm.

But he was too strong for me. Paula was inside him, helping him, and he was stronger than I, even the wild-me that I had unleashed. I could see her eyes, somehow, inside his eyes. Why are you staying with him? I wanted to ask. Why love him? This man killed you. So I stepped sideways and arrived, myself, in Twilight.

My strength was flagging, and I didn’t know how much I had left. But I had to try. Grabbing Paula herself, I attempted to drag her out of her body. Failing once, failing twice, I barely noticed the chasm that opened up underneath me as, behind me, Johnathan was ripping up Arnhem’s black-bound diary. With a final wrench, Lee rips Paula from LeMain and she falls, screaming, into the pit below.

A part of me, watching from behind myself, feels a spark of sadness, but suddenly, I am filled with anger. There is no justice in this. That woman deserved her revenge, and what have we done? We have saved the life of a man who, along with his best friend, abused the trust of a woman who gave him her vulnerability, then committed the final indignity of covering up the sordid details of her death. But guess what, Terrence? Violence begets violence, motherfucker. And I hear you’re into whips.

Kaya Sparrowhawk

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Dead Sound
In which the heroes meet some creeps who nevertheless impart important information, and a shady deal is made

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.

Kaya Sparrowhawk

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Ghosts Aren't Rational, Go Figure
We all cling on to life, who are we to judge the dead?

As it turns out, getting information from Terrance wouldn’t be easy. I reluctantly went along with Gabrielle (taking time out of her clubbing schedule to do something useful? Wow), but I don’t think I would be able to stand spending a lot of time with Kyra. I was in the end, glad to work with the lesser of two evils. Lee is the most tolerable out of the three I have to work with, even though he could use some work on his English. He shares the same penitence for lack of prudence that I do, being a driven individual, I respect that. Learning to help others is something that will force all of us to change ourselves, however…

So begins the long list of obstacles that will stand in our way, as Gabby and I encountered another snag when our excursion to dig up information on the late wife of Terrance the Detective went awry. Long story short, we were found out, and it’ll only be a matter of time before Terrance knows somebody is trying to dig up information that he himself may not be comfortable disclosing. We did however, manage to acquire the name of a very large chain of funeral homes and services, leading us to two of the most knowledgeable necrophiles in the Milwaukee area; Emmanuel and Nicholas Burgess. Kyra and Gabrielle set out on a quest to dig up information about Paula LeMain, while Lee and I (thank God) went into the fray at Terrance’s place of residence, using some newly acquired sin-eater powers to project ourselves into his home.

A short while later, Lee comes bursting up out of the ground, exasperated and shaken. I turn to him, eager to hear what he has found…

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Take My Wife
Tae-Song and Paula

This is a tough life (?) to get used to. Your perspective on things begins to change in ways you wouldn’t have thought possible. Fitz suggested that a good way to come to grips with our new existence is to help a troubled spirit pass on. They certainly seem to be in abundance, but Kaya and Michaels seemed to know of one who hangs around a police detective; specifically, the detective who’s been helping Kaya with the case of her almost-murder. It seemed as good a starting point as any.

It turns out that this ghost is the deceased wife of Detective LeMain, who died under mysterious circumstances about two years ago. Michaels and Gabby decided to look for information; Kaya and I would go to the police station to get a chance to talk to Paula LeMain. Kaya set up an appointment with the detective, while I stayed out in the waiting room, speaking to Paula in Korean, with my cell phone up to my ear.

But where do you start with a tortured spirit unable to pass on to the afterlife? Simply asking “Why are you here?” Might as well try. She told me, again and again, that Terrence was the reason she was still here. Terrence is here, so she has to stay here. So that they can be together.

I borrowed Fitz’s metaphor of the world as a Lake: we all must eventually cross from the land of the living to the land of the dead, but some boats get wrecked on the coast of the living, leaving their passenger wandering here when they should be crossing over. And if we want either side to mean anything, we have to respect that journey and cross over when it is our time.

But Paula seemed rather insistent that it is not her time, and she does not have to cross. She has to stay here, with Terrence, so they can be together forever. She said that Terrence knew she was still here, which seemed more than a little odd to me. But the real crazy came when she mentioned the bedroom. That she/they had to stay because of the bedroom. I asked what she meant. What happened in the bedroom? But she seemed profoundly unwilling to proceed with that conversation, insisting that she needed to go talk to Terrence. I decided not to risk an astral confrontation in the police station, and let her go, but this was not over.

I asked Paul the next day if he had any advice on how to deal with such a stubborn specter, and he suggested going to check out the bedroom myself, a thought I had already reluctantly entertained. So on Saturday, I did exactly that. Michaels and I went to an abandoned house near Detective LeMain’s and buried me alive in the garage. The night of the Bargain came rushing back to memory: the crushing weight of the earth, the total darkness, the sense that something was happening that was not quite of this world. But it was not the same, and my spirit did not die.

Things look different in Twilight. Everything seems further away somehow, and less real. The first time you pass through a solid physical object as if it were a hologram leaves you with an unshakable feeling that this is far too dream-like to be real. But there was the house, as real as can be. And the detective was not home, which meant Paula would not be home, either. Assuming that tempting fate would be unwise, I made straight for the bedroom, and sure enough there was a large death-stain on the bed, a little faded after two years, but unmistakable. No other signs of anything unusual, like blood or a fight, but there has to…

That closet. That closet looks far too shallow. That can’t be right, the outer walls are too far back for this to be the end of the closet. And I just so happen to be able to walk through walls.

Behind the closet’s back wall is a room more terrifying than anything campfire ghost stories could conjure. The walls are plastered with pictures of Terrence and Paula, covered with the phrase “Terrence + Paula Forever”, scrawled in red ink. Two mannequins rest against the walls wearing necklaces with wedding rings on them. Whips. Chains. Bondage gear. A closer look reveals that many of the pictures have a third man in them (including some depicting rather indecent scenarios), whose face has been burned out with a cigarette. In one picture, you can see that the third man is a police uniform; no rank insignia, but the badge bears the name “Arnhem.” And in the corner is a small black book. A small black book that I cannot open because I’m currently in Twilight, but maybe in time, I cou-

“What are you doing here?”

Uh oh. Think fast, Tae-Song. “Gathering information.”

“You’re not supposed to be here. Get out.”

“Paula? Is that you?”

“Get out.”

“Is this Paula?”

GET OUT.”

What came next sounded like a firecracker and felt like getting hit in the chest with a whip. I came back to my body in an instant, with far more information than I had been expecting. I can’t imagine I got on Paula’s good side, though, but I think we’re closer to helping her. Much more work to be done, of course.

What’s that saying? “It’s always darkest before the dawn?” I sure hope so, because that closet felt like midnight, and I could use some sunlight.

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