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Dead Endings Book 2 (Dead Leads): Chapter 6

A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #045 back issue.

“What the hell happened?” Cailen asked.

The trio huddled around a weather-worn park bench on a small traffic island a block away from the accident.

Everett looked at her blankly and Gabriella made a “speak louder” gesture.

“I said,” Cailen shouted over the orchestra of horns, “what the hell happened?!”

After the EMTs had arrived at the scene, the three had tried to leave but found themselves swept up by a net of beat cops trying to get statements. There were so many witnesses to the crash that they’d been exiled to a nearby traffic island to wait their turn. Amidst the resulting chaos from the blockage at Park and East 84th and all the furious noise that came with it, they bent their heads together to discuss the failed operation.

Gabriella kicked the bench. “He let another one go. It blew up like the one at the coffee shop, only quicker.”

“I didn’t know ghosts could be lobbed like grenades,” Cailen said dryly.

“Ha. They can’t. Or they shouldn’t.”

“Apparently they can, and now someone’s dead.”

The three were silent for a moment.

“Y’know,” Cailen said, rocking back on her heels, “I almost had him. Almost, but I couldn’t hold on.”

“Who?” Everett asked.

“The cab driver who died. He just…evaporated.”

Gabriella gave her a sad smile. “There was nothing you could have done.”

“If I was better at this or stronger, I bet I could have. I did it before with Ethan.”

Her friend shook her curly head. “No, you couldn’t have. I mean that literally.”

Cailen raised an eyebrow. Everett eagerly dug out his notepad.

“It’s like,” Gabriella began, eyeing the notepad without enthusiasm, “spirits that stick around become more…solid. To the environment and to us. Us, as in sensitives.”

Everett scribbled furiously.

“There’s an overlap of sorts between whatever plane they exist on and our world. Some of them, especially the strong ones, can affect things here, become visible and stuff. And in turn, we can affect them. To a degree, anyway.”

“Like when you wipe them,” Cailen stated.

“Yeah, like that. Same goes for sensitives.”

The pen stopped moving and Everett’s jaw dropped. “You can ‘wipe’ people?!”

“No, you idiot,” Cailen said. “She just means that she can affect other sensitives in the energy department. Remember? The whole plan today was to tie that kid’s aura off.”

“Ohhhhh…”

“So,” Cailen mused, “you’re saying that because the guy was just your average Joe, I had no hope of holding on to him.”

“Bingo.”

“I see, I see…” Everett muttered as he wrote it all down.

“Still feels pretty shitty…” Cailen murmured to herself. “Anyway, what happened, then? The kid see you guys and attack?”

Gabriella shook her head. “I don’t think so. I mean, maybe he did at the end, but he never even looked our way before the crash. He just got to the intersection and stood there smiling. Then he let it go.”

Cailen, remembering suddenly, smacked her fist into her palm. “Ah, it was that guy! That guy who gave him the note!”

“…What guy?”

“He…” Cailen struggled to remember his face. She had never been very good with faces. “Tall…curly blond hair, big nose, dressed like Steve Jobs… I feel like I know him from somewhere.”

“Conner?!” Gabriella and Everett blurted out.

“Yeah! That jerk!”

Gabriella sat up a little straighter. “You saw Conner? Here?”

Cailen jerked her thumb back at Park Avenue. “He came from my side of the school. Walked straight up to the kid and handed him something.”

“Then ka-boom…” Everett breathed.

“He say anything? Did you get a look at the note?” Gabriella asked.

“Sorry, nope. I don’t think they said a word between them, but after he gave the kid the paper, he pointed up at the spirits. Then he just left.”

Gabriella chewed on her thumb. “Just what the heck does he think he’s doing? That kid’s a walking disaster. And where does Aiden keep getting all these polter…”

Gabriella stared off into the distance, then caught Cailen’s eye. Wordlessly, Cailen turned the unfinished sentence over in her mind.

That little monster.

Gabriella didn’t elaborate, but Cailen thought she knew where she was headed with it. She recalled the man with the horn-rimmed glasses before and after being strung up like a balloon. Pictured his crushed features, the dark miasma surrounding him, and the charged air of fury and despair…

“What? What is it?” asked Everett as Cailen silently digested this new detail.

One of the beat cops yelled at them and gestured to the corner where a police detail van was double-parked. Gabriella acknowledged him with a wave and rose from the bench.

Cailen turned to Everett and gave him a thin smile.

“You ever know one of those kids that’d stick a frog in the microwave to see what’d happen? Well…”

***

Several days and several failed attempts to track down Aiden later found Gabriella moping around the apartment while Cailen fiddled with an IKEA side table she’d found in a dumpster.

“I hate waiting. Hate it!” Gabriella growled.

Cailen loosened an important-looking bolt with her Allen wrench. The side table wobbled.

“The kid causes an accident that kills someone and I can’t even get Ben to take it seriously enough to pull me an address!”

“Your cop buddy?” Cailen mumbled around the bolt she’d stuck in her mouth while she studied the empty socket.

“Yes! Can you believe him? ‘Can’t just go handing out information or files whenever you want,’ my butt! The kid’s dangerous. He should be jumping to help me take care of him!”

“Tape,” Cailen commanded.

Gabriella handed her a roll of duct tape. Cailen carefully secured the newly freed bolt to the underside of the tabletop for safekeeping.

“I mean, what could the cops do with it, anyway? People don’t even believe in ghosts, much less consider them in the ‘dangerous weapon’ category. And you said yourself that the whole thing’s kinda hard to believe in the first place, right? It ‘shouldn’t be possible.’”

“I did, but there are obviously more talents out there than I thought.”

“And Ev? How’d Nancy Drew make out?”

Gabriella laughed, but it was more frustration than mirth.

“He’s done as much as he can. At this rate, the FBI’s going to have him on a watchlist for all the sniffing around that school he’s been doing.”

Cailen finished unbolting a second leg. She set it down next to a bowling pin she’d been holding on to for a special occasion.

“Mmmm, that leaves Conner, then. You hear anything yet?”

“No, but Billy said he’d ring just as soon as that snake shows up.”

“You think he’ll actually show?”

Gabriella snorted. “Oh, he will. The guy practically haunts The Laundry. He’s so desperate to be around people who know what he can do that he’s in there at least once a week.”

“Thinks he’s all that and a stack of business cards, huh?”

“Exactly!” Gabriella said. “Acts like he’s the Lord’s gift to…”

Her grumbling faded into the background as Cailen smiled to herself. She studied the table and tried to picture what she wanted to do.

Maybe something postmodern-Deco-Big Lebowski…?

Gabriella’s phone rang.

“Ah! Ahahaha!” Gabriella cackled. “Speak of the devil! Grab your stuff, Delaney. He’s there!”

Cailen set down the glue gun and the tin of mints she was holding with a sigh.

“We’d better stay for more than one drink this time.”

Proceed to Chapter 6, page 2–>

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