Ami gets a new case and meets a pre-Tomorrow Person.
What does a necromancer who can't raise the dead do for a living? Exorcisms, hauntings, and conversations with the dead. I'm speaking of true to life conversations with dead people, not the sÃ©ances that charlatans and magicians offer for a hefty sum, or the charlatans who hawk their wares on late night television. There is nothing flashy about what I do. Lights don't flicker on and off, ghostly figures do not float across the room while making whining and crying and moaning sounds. I see them just as I would any other person, and I talk to them. Sometimes it requires binding to a spot or an item, particularly if the ghost isn't feeling very communicative.
I also have a fair number of that classic "other duties as assigned." I can control zombies, which might sound like a non-brainer, but occasionally someone who isn't licensed or trained raises up an old relative or lover and finds out that they can't control it. I'm called in to put the zombie back where it belongs, and I'm always amazed when the moron who tried to do such a thing manages to not wipe their brain or wreak worst havoc.
As well, I'm on retainer with the Cleveland Police Department for those times when someone with a little bit of underworld insight is needed in reference to preternatural crimes. That was how I met Detective Benjamin Shannon. Granted it wasn't much of a meeting. I and another spiritualist were trying very hard to convince the spirit of a werewolf that had been accidentally shot at the station, to move onward. Ben hung out in the background, a target for the spirit's anger, and praying that I, and my co-worker, wouldn't out him as a lycanthrope if the were spirit supplied too much information.
Eventually, amid many psychic barrages and upsets, the spirit left and I had a moment to reassure Ben that the rage was unjustified and misdirected; not being on duty when the shooting happened, he couldn't be held responsible even if it was a member of his pack. I also promised to keep his secret and he immediately thanked me by inviting me to dinner. Somehow I managed to say no to all six-feet three inches, solid muscle, curly dark hair, matching eyes and olive skin, courtesy of his mother's Latina heritage.
At the time, I couldn't have imagined dating him. I was still finding my place, accepting that I would be forever mired in the underworld unless I ignored and gave up my abilities completely. I was not ready to even entertain the idea of dating a were, particularly not the second in command alpha were of the Rurnkirk Clan. My life was complicated enough. But, our paths continued to cross, mostly courtesy of the Cleveland PD and Ben was persistent; the persistence is part of what makes him such a damn good detective. Eventually, I gave in because I had to be honest: dating opportunities for necromancers were pretty much limited to other necromancers or men who could handle underworldly knowledge; those men are few and far between. I agreed to one date with no promises. Benjamin promised to spoil me for all other men.
He did, and the rest is a year and a half of history.
Ben was off-duty today, so he dropped me off at work with a promise to drop by and take me out for lunch. I was less than enthusiastic about the offer because I really just hoped to close my office door and try to catch up on my sleep during my lunch hour. After all, once I went back to bed, Ben made relatively certain that I didn't get another wink of sleep before having to get up and drag myself into the office. One of the problems with having a boyfriend whom is more irresistible than melting chocolate.
I told him I would call.
I noted that I seemed to be sharpening my talent at agreeing to do things I never planned on following through with. First with Kevin, and now with Ben.
I worked for Martina Nuemiller, Marty, as she liked to be called, at a wonderful place called "Last Rites." It's an incredibly morbid and cheeky name for a business that does what we do because Marty has a rather morbid sense of humor. Marty considers the business and her employees family, and she takes good care of both. The business comes first, naturally, but still she does care more than a great many bosses and I consider myself lucky to have impressed her enough to be hired.
Marty is an old friend of Aunt Rose. Aunt Rose worked for Marty's father before he decided that he missed Marty's mother and passed on peacefully in his sleep one night. When Aunt Rose decided to retire, shortly after taking me under her wing, she promised Marty a trained replacement. The agreement was that Aunt Rose worked part-time, I worked part-time and finished college. When that was said and done, Aunt Rose got her pension and Marty got a fully trained and capable necromancer.
Aunt Rose neglected to mention that her niece couldn't kill a bloody thing.
It took a while, but eventually Marty realized that I could make a good contribution to the business. She expanded to include a repertoire beyond raising the dead, and I got the pleasure of becoming known as one of the few necromancers who could also romance a spirit back into the grave. The day Marty got wind of the soul thing, I swear I watched the woman have an orgasm at her desk. Three years later we still butt heads when someone wants a soul shoved into body.
I was hoping that today wasn't one of those days, but I had my doubts. When the first words out of Evelyn, the morning secretary's mouth happened to be, "Marty wanted to see you as soon as you got in," it didn't bode well for being able to close my door, lock myself in the office and just sleep.
I told Evelyn to check my calendar and see if I had some free time this afternoon. I wanted to see if I could grab a few minutes with Jade or Megabyte, and that meant out of office time. The nice thing about Evelyn was that she didn't ask twenty questions. She simply complied with the request. By the time I had dropped my purse off at my desk, checked my email, which included one spicy little love note from Ben, and gotten a cup of coffee, Evelyn had my answer. I was free after two o' clock. It worked for me.
Marty sat in her office conversing quietly with whom I had to assume were clients she was setting up to work with me. As was my habit, I checked out my clients as quickly as I could before Marty pulled me into the interview process. They were an older man, probably in his mid to late fifties, dark hair graying at the temples and dusted throughout. Beside him sat a teenaged girl, sixteen if she was a day, her dark hair streaked with aqua and magenta. I felt a faint tug from her as our eyes met and I nudged a bit mentally. She blinked and nudged back, her eyes widening as her attention darted between Marty and me.
The girl was very close to breaking out and becoming a Tomorrow Person any day now. I could probably have pushed her right over the edge with a few more mental nudges, but that wasn't how things were done. She'd come to it in her own time; and she probably be happy that she met me first. I had to imagine that she wouldn't be that scared of what I did considering she sat here in the offices of Last Rites.
"Ah good, Ami, you're here." Marty acknowledged me with a nod and beckoned me further into the office. "I'd like you to meet Mr. Phillip Hayes and his daughter, Danae. Ami Jackson is our premiere, actually are only necromancer on staff whom also possesses amazing talents as a spiritualist."
I ignored Marty's compliments, as they weren't meant for me, but rather as a selling point for Mr. Hayes and his daughter. I shook both their hands, holding a moment longer than was probably necessary while I picked up and impressed on myself everything I could about the man and his daughter. Being a Tomorrow Person came in handy in my job sometimes; I could scan surface thoughts and receive initial impressions of a person. It helped me figure out how to approach each case. The system wasn't foolproof. Some people were naturally shielded and some were just very good at hiding and lying.
I got none of that from Mr. Hayes or Danae. These two people were miserable and desperate for the situation to be rectified. Whatever the situation was that brought them here.
I sat down and listened as Marty elaborated on what services Mr. Hayes and Danae wanted performed. Mostly, though I didn't listen very hard and simply studied Danae. I always ended up asking for the story again from clients. I liked to hear it fresh from them, and Marty's Cliff Notes versions didn't always cover all the bases.
"Mr. Hayes and Danae are being haunted by the spirit of the late Mrs. Hayes. They moved about six months ago, believing that the woman's ghost was tied to their home, but she followed them and has begun terrorizing them all over again."
Terrorizing? That got my attention. I glared across the desk at Marty. I had a problem with angry and vengeful ghosts and she knew it. It all stemmed back to the fun I'd had with a very vengeful spirit four months ago. The bugger had somehow gotten past all my wards and defenses, taken possession of my body and damn near tried to cast out me out of there. It was an attack equivalent to rape and it was the reason that I had taken two months off from work. It was the reason I was seeing Dr. Danning and it was the very thing that I had refused to talk about with Kevin.
Marty was one of the most capricious people that I knew. She could, when she so desired, be a force of nature with which to be reckoned. She had unbelievable energy and so much confidence that there were times when she made me feel dwarfed by her barely five-foot two frame when I had her by a good six inches. Other times, she was the picture of maternal concern, sympathy and innocence, simply wanting to heal and help. At this moment, she was the latter, seated behind her desk, her honey blonde hair pulled up in a neat little Victorian bun that complemented the dark, professional suit she wore. Green eyes blinked back at me with nothing but innocence.
I turned from Marty to Mr. Hayes. "Excuse me, but what exactly does Ms. Nuemiller mean when she says terrorizing?"
"She's ... not happy, Miss Jackson." Mr. Hayes looked to his lap, wringing his hands together. "See, I'm going to be remarried soon, and Stella just isn't taking it well. She moves things around. She destroys things - "
"She's trying to kill my Dad."
I almost turned to Danae to acknowledge her words until I realized she hadn't spoken out loud and that her father was still speaking. She chewed on a turquoise painted nail, looking sullen and miserable, dark eyes haunted. Obviously the stress of whatever was happening at her home was pushing her closer and closer to the edge of breaking out. It was just too bad that the stress had to be her mother's restless, undead spirit.
"Mr. Hayes, if we're going to help you, I'm going to need you to be completely honest," I interrupted. I kept my voice calm and neutral, I projected caring and compassion into their minds. Not all non-telepaths were receptive to empathic vibrations, but it never hurt to try. "Tell me what you meant when you told Ms. Nuemiller that your wife, Stella?" At his nod, I continued, "That Stella is terrorizing you."
"She's like a poltergeist. She breaks things. She throws things. The stove caught on fire."
I waited. He said nothing more and was looking at his lap again. This was like pulling teeth and I didn't have Kevin's patience at times like this. "Mr. Hayes, please. I know this is difficult, but you're not helping either of us if you're not honest."
"She's trying to kill him." This time, Danae did say the words aloud. Her father's head jerked up and he glanced at his daughter as though she had just declared herself to be a vampire's consort.
"She's not - Ms. Nuemiller, Ms. Jackson, she's - Danae gets carried away -"
"I do not! God, Dad, why can't you just be honest about it! You heard them. They can't help us if you aren't honest and that means she won't ever go away. And I can't have you die too!" The words burst explosively from Danae, by the time her tirade was finished, she stood shaking and trembling. Then as if that short burst took away all her energy, she sagged back in her chair, drew he legs up to her chest and began sobbing.
Marty handed her a box of tissues and we excused ourselves to give father and daughter a little time alone.
"I know what you're going to say, Ami," Marty announced without preamble once we were away from her office.
I glared at her. "You have no idea what I'm going to say, Marty."
"You heard their story. You saw that girl. How can you possibly say no?"
"Because I don't do vengeful ghosts. You know this, Marty. We've talked about it. I can't afford to take that much of a risk. Not even for you." Maybe for Danae, but not for Marty. There was no way to explain that to Marty, not that I would have anyway. She was too much a predator that made her an excellent businesswoman. If she saw a weakness, Marty would exploit it for all it was worth.
"What happened was terrible, Ami, I admit that." Marty took my hands in her, oozing sympathy. All right, telepathically I could tell she had slightly more effort towards convincing me than she did sympathy with my plight, but the sympathy was there. "But it's pretty much believed that it was a fluke. That ghost was a necromancer, we didn't know that. I've already checked with Mr. Hayes. Stella Hayes had no necromantic or spiritualistic ability."
"I can't go into a situation like that without backup, Marty. I won't."
"I've already looked into Apple Blossom's availability."
"No. No bloody way. Not if she was the last anchor on the planet. No." Apple Blossom, and yes, that was her real name, was a Wiccan, new-agey medium type. However, she was a true spiritualist, even if I could sense more spirits by walking into a room than she could by summoning them. But she did have an affinity for earth magic, and that made her a good anchor.
Apple Blossom was also the biggest flake on the planet.
"Ami, I know you better than that. What would Rose say? You can't want to turn this family down, can you?"
I hated it when Marty played the sympathy card and then trumped it with the guilt card by using Aunt Rose against me. I still would have argued with her longer, solely on general purpose, but I was running on three hours of sleep. It didn't make for very long lasting or coherent arguments. "Fine. I'll do it. But get me someone other than Apple Blossom."
I turned and started walking back towards Marty's office. Hopefully, Mr. Hayes would be more forthcoming once he knew that Last Rites was committed to taking his case.
End of Part Four