Chapter 10

"Religion cannot be evicted by humanity. It always amuses me whenever someone tries, because religion isn't just worship services or saying you believe in a god or even cannabis. It's the organization of beliefs, and every individual has an organized set of beliefs that they use in deciding who they will associate with-who will make up the congregation of their personal church. Whether those beliefs are worthwhile or whether the individual themselves are loyal to them is a different story, and also one of the main reasons for negativity towards the concept of religion. Tolerance of others beliefs isn't just about being okay that someone thinks differently than you, nor is it accepting others beliefs as your own. It's being okay when someone lives their beliefs so well, they remind you how badly you uphold your own.

There is no possible way for one to be completely okay with being reminded of their own failure. Rather, tolerance is not attacking another for being exceptional where you are not.

Whether or not you decide to change or to better yourself because of that reminder is a different story. But it isn't so far fetch to say that happiness doesn't come with a refusal to change. That is, after all, why some call a refusal to change, to grow, to develop, to repent, damnation.

But then the question is: how to change? Not all change is good, after all.

And that, friends, is answered by religion."

-Oliver Davis in Plain, under a different name

I sensed a tension in the room. Intuition tickled me that something had been hit.

"What do you mean?" she asked. "I didn't offend you or anything, did I? Though I don't know what's so offensive about that, bringing babies to a work site-"

"I'm asking how prevalent drugs are at your home," he said in that tone I knew meant he was utterly unimpressed with someone. I knew it so well because of how often he had used it with me in the beginning. "You have no reason to assume we'd take our baby to a possibly dangerous site of a haunting, and even if we did bring him, most people wouldn't think much of someone carrying a baby while asking a college student some questions. Not that it is unorthodox for you to be a bit uncomfortable, but I would like to be reassured that the reason isn't because of drug abuse."

Her shoulders hunched a bit, bunching her long, bleached hair into little arcs. "What, are you the narc police or something? Not that it matters, there aren't drugs in our house, no way."

My intuition binged. I didn't believe her. And even if I did, a part of me wondered if she'd even care if a baby were exposed to it. Suddenly, I felt very unnerved by this girl, though I shook it off. I was being extremely judgmental and paranoid. Just because she was afraid to wake up the baby didn't mean she, what, didn't like kids? Must be my new mama nerves. Definitely that.

"It's a college sorority," Naru said. "It was stupid of me to ask. I never take my son onto sites anyways. I am, after all, a professional. You should know, having no job whatsoever. Makes me wonder how you can afford to pay for a paranormal investigator and why. As far as I can tell, your parents don't approve of the paranormal, so it's not like they'd pay."

The temperature of the room plummeted.

I shrunk from my peeping corner and back into the kitchen and face palmed.

Way to go on not being completely offensive. Sometimes I wondered if that man's comprehension of social decorum wasn't fully developed.

There was a stillness before she asked, her tone a new kind of quiet, "How do you know that?"

"It's nothing special. I am currently in the middle of the application process of teaching at Tokyo University and I happened to meet your father, who didn't especially approve of the universities choice to add psychic and paranormal curriculum to the science department. A Dr. Yusmishi, if I'm correct."

By the time Naru had wound up his Sherlocky 'ho ho, look at me, I got one up on you,' the girl had warmed up enough to inject indignation into her tone.

I peeked back out, just in case I needed to jump out and smooth things over, which was looking imminent.

"Why does it matter how I'm paying you? I don't get where-this is so inappropriate-"

"Because I don't think you're just here to get rid of a few bumps in the night." Naru leaned forward, folding his hands between his knees. His eyebrows had lowered, his dark eyes gone piercing. "You want to clear your conscience."

I expected her to shoot up and fire Naru then and there. Yes, Naru was often uncaring to the more sensible loops most of us jumped through to keep the peace, but he always managed to be respectful of the client, if not keep his tongue in check. Then again, it wasn't like we needed this client, right? And if she was getting money through means that might hurt her...

She didn't jump up. Her shoulders rose, and her back hunched towards the back of the couch, as though to brace her.

"I had an abortion," she whispered.

Naru raised an eyebrow, and the girl visibly cringed, hiding behind her long hair.

"Okay, I had a few. But I was told it wasn't a big deal, that I was being smart, that babies take a lot of time and you have to be ready for them and it wouldn't be fair to bring them into the world when you're not ready for them-"

"People always try to justify what is wrong," he said, a bit more gently this time.

"B-b-but I didn't want a baby, I had birth control, it was just a mistake-I think they're haunting my dorm. My roommate got one too, she thinks so too, that their unborn souls are haunting us because we're their murderers and-" her words were speeding up, blending, and she wasn't pausing to breathe. "And I keep waking up and hearing baby crying and have these horrible nightmares and the banging and the doors closing and then this book fell when it wasn't suppose to at all and-"

I had reached the couch by then and put a hand on her shoulder. "Breathe!"

She gasped, then broke into a dry, strangled sob.

"I didn't think they were babies-I never wanted a baby, it was just a-they said it would be okay, that I was being smart, doing the right thing-" She curled over her lap, face in her hands. "Help me. Help me, please."

For a moment, Naru said nothing, watching the crumpled girl as she shook with sobs and me rubbing her back in an attempt to comfort her. I couldn't read his expression, but I could somehow get a sense of what he must be feeling. It reminded me of something he had said back in a hospital basement, about good and bad and evil. Something about evil not being the Saturday morning villain, but that it was pitiful. That evil was the wound on another's soul. There was no cackling or laughing, most of the time. Mostly, there was just suffering.

When Naru stood, I half suspected that he would go back to his office and have me finish with this girl. Comforting wasn't his strong suit, and he would probably worry he'd just make it worse. Instead, he came to her side of the coffee table and picked up her untouched cup of tea. I moved my hands as she sat up to see what he offered her.

"You'll figure this out, if you want to," he said. "Nothing is more powerful than the human will. I can help with the haunting, but first you need to tell me how you're paying for this."

She sniffed. "I-I can't tell you that."

"Is it hurting you?"

"Depends."

"Well, it won't matter how many times a home is purified if an individual doesn't purify themselves. Ghosts are just people, after all, and birds of a feather flock together." He leaned back to grab his black folder and pulled out a business card from one of the pockets. "Here's the contact information of a friend of mine. If you're not willing to talk to me about it, you can talk to him. He'd probably do better at it anyways."

She wiped at her nose with her hand and squinted at the card. "A priest? Are you trying to shove religion down my throat?"

"Do you even know what religion is?"

"God and morals and stuff-"

"As I thought. You don't." He set the tea on her lap for her to catch and stood. "If that's all, I will be at your sorority house two on Saturday."

With that, he did his 'I'm professional and triumphant and wise and not fleeing' run for his office, where, after closing the door, he probably got Eugene back up on his chest for comfort. So much emotional contact frightened the poor guy, after all.

Meanwhile, I got the girl a handkerchief. I didn't need to see the card to know who was on it.

"Father Brown is a very good friend of mine," I said, squeezing her shoulder. "He's saved my life on more than one occasion."

She snorted. "What, he bring you to God?"

"Nope. He saved my life literally. He's a good man with a lot of compassion. And for the record, I'm not a baptized Catholic, so you don't have to convert to work with him."

"He's just going to say a load of junk like pray and repent." She blew her nose. "There's no going back on aborting a pregnancy. It's just done."

"You haven't even talked to him. I thought you said you wanted help. What were you expecting? Flashing lights and voodoo? And that's easier for you to handle than just talking to someone who happens to be a priest?"

She said nothing at this. I did get my hand off her in case things got awkward and went around to pick up Naru's tea cup. Of course, his was empty. Never one to waste, the tea addict.

A snuffling mewl came from behind the office door. Daddy must not have picked up Eugene as smooth as he wanted.

The girl stood up sharply. "I better go. Thanks."

I picked up the card she left on the table. "Don't forget this. Trust us on this." I gave her my best reassuring smile. "Everything's going to be okay."

She stared at the card for a second before taking it and putting it in her pant pocket. Without looking at me, she grabbed her purse and left.

And there you have it! Thank you to the guest reviewer who left me a review entirely in Spanish. I had to use Google translate, but hey, the message got across. To anyone who has problems with reading about childbirth or motherhood-grow up.

Now! This will probably be the last of this series. I hope you all liked it, and thank you so much for all your reviews! They were a delight to read. ^.^ Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.