“So what about after you talk to the authorities and main suspects?”
“Friends and family, like in the commercial. First your players, then try to glean some motivations. Sometimes people talk, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s the truth, sometimes not. You can hit a wall of silence, or piss somebody off.”
“So it’s a lot of question and answer.”
Lars thought. “Open-ended questions are best. Try to get them to open up.”
“And if they don’t?”
“Then maybe some factual and technical stuff like insurance policies, bank accounts, phone records, video, etc.”
“That’s all private information. How do you get at it?”
“It’s all about the contacts. Cops, a suspicious relative, the maid. Cyber stuff, if you can find a hacker with a conscience. And that’s all fine but if you still need more you can try to wear people down, but you don’t carry a badge and it rarely works. Might even get you shot or slashed.” Kelsen pulled his collar to the side and down. A thin white scar glared against his tanned trapezius muscle and cut a groove into the patch of grey hair on his upper chest.
“Oh my God, Lars,” Becky said, her dark eyes wide and showing white.
“Sparring with my brothers taught me to move, otherwise the gangbanger would have found my carotid. Anyway, if nothing obvious presents itself, you need to re-think your players and dig into their motivations without getting AP.”
“Getting what?” Frank said.
“Analysis paralysis. At times the most basic motive is the one that spawned a murderer.” His head tilted thoughtfully, his gaze drawn to the bright gap between his visitors. “Think either of you could murder someone right now? What if you were convinced you’d never get caught? Maybe the guy was a murderer or a rapist. Could you pick up a knife and start stabbing, or pull the trigger from a few feet away?”
“Not bloody likely,” Becky said. “Frank?”
The editor pursed his narrow lips. “It would have to suit some purpose.”
“Now you’re scaring me, love,” Becky said, with a nervous laugh. “I’d better go lower my insurance payout.”
Lars cocked a brow. “We’re talking morality now, not just the law. It would take something powerful for most people to cross that line and murder someone. The criminal or criminal-to-be is either a sociopath, or motivated enough to get past any moral qualms.”
The air hung in the cubicle.
“Anyway. That’s my take. Again, good to meet you Frank. Beck, I really gotta get moving on my stuff here.”
“Could really use your help,” Frank said. “I could pay you freelance, with loose deadlines.”
“No thanks. Besides, loose deadlines are only theoretical concepts.”
“At The Sentinel they’re real. Beck says you only work three days a week here.”
“True, but my off days are spent gainfully not working. Fishing would suffer.”
“You seem to be plugged into the society around here. Heard of Craig Broughton?”
“Rich guy. Built a landscaping business from the ground up, as it were. Calls his company The Lawnsquad. Seen him once or twice at the higher-end festivities, one at his own palace here at the beach.”
“How’d you get invited? You rich, Kelsen?”
“Only in personality.”
“Lady-friends invited him, no doubt,” Becky said, shaking her curly head in admonishment.
“Maybe,” Lars said. “Also came across Broughton at the bait shop when he was getting supplies with his captain for his yacht.”
“What’d you think of him?”
“An asshole who happens to have made a lot of money.”
For the first time Frank seemed to hesitate. “We could talk more over lunch.”
“About how he’s the main suspect in the disappearance—”
“Ho now!” Kelsen’s hand went up. “I don’t want to know.”
“Not even curious?”
“Old roads better left in the rear-view. Hey, here comes Carla.”
Lars never thought he’d be so glad to see his stern little manager, but she merely glanced in his cube, said hello to Frank, and charged on.
Becky turned to her husband. “Time to go, Frank. I’ve got work to do too.”
“Think about the offer, Kelsen,” Frank said, holding a business card up to the light and placing it on the desk. “Think of it as helping your adopted community by keeping them informed.”
Lars studied the monitor, then glanced at the business card. He swept it up as he swiveled toward the wall, glanced at the shiny lettering and slipped it into his breast pocket. He swallowed. A bit of a headache had come on, offsetting the voices, keyboards, phones...basic sounds of the workplace. Felt anxious now. No doubt that Frank dude’s fault.
He turned his back to the cube entrance and rubbed his temples. Yeah, high time to dry out a bit.
Office buzz drained from the department.
Must be dozing off. He reached for the coffee and halted.
Someone behind him. Distracted, he hadn’t heard footsteps. Kelsen swiveled toward the cube entrance, irritation swelling inside.
“Look, I appreciate the offer, but —”
No one at the entrance to his cube. And now it was like his cube was inside a cave. Dank, still air. Echoes. Not good. Not good at all. Kelsen swallowed, slowly turned.
A woman occupied his guest chair.
Nude. Silent. Staring.
Blonde hair reached lithe, bare shoulders. Green algae fouled a lean but endowed body. Bits of mud and sand clung to her feet, marring her image even more.
Kelsen didn’t know who she was, but there was no doubt what she was.
Greetings from the rogue element of his mind. It must have captured this poor woman’s image somewhere on television or the internet without his realizing it—and now, dormant for five years, it felt like kicking up again. He was to believe this victim appeared this way an instant before her final heartbeat.
Like the others over the years, the last remaining glint of life had been snuffed from her eyes. The gaze of the dead.
Kelsen peered closer. What had caused her death?
A sheen glistened from the waist down, over what would have been flawless skin, were it not for the clinging bits.
There—a thumb-sized rupture. Center-left breast.
Didn’t take a medical examiner to recognize the bullet wound.
She remained long enough for him to try to swallow the rock lodged in his throat.
Without warning, without sound of passage, she vanished.
Gradually the buzz of the office returned.
Kelsen’s hand trembled as he felt the seat of the chair. Nothing. Not damp. No bits of sand, algae, or seaweed. He drew back in his chair and searched his memories, wanting her to be a past victim.
He could not place her, though she seemed vaguely familiar. Hauntingly beautiful despite death’s repose, doubtless she had been stunning in life, and unlikely to be forgotten.
He didn’t know who she was, but if the past was any indication, her identity would be revealed whether he wanted it to be or not.
There was one more certainty.
This was just the first Visit.
Thanks for reading this excerpt of my paranormal mystery novel, “Ghostly Summons”
The complete work is available on Amazon.