**Authors Note**; Heavy editing is being done as of the beginning of this month (November, 2015). Editing was desperately needed, and I hope the early chapters are less juvenile with the changes that have been made.
This series takes place in 2007 and subsequently will progress, possibly to present time once each book is finished.
Preface: The Beginning
"The marks humans leave are too often scars."
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
"I'm a cop, Penelope. You think anyone gives a damn you've got a black eye? You ever try to leave; it'll be the last mistake you make."
These words haunted Penny as she shoved clothing into a duffle bag, her hands shaking as she tried desperately to rack her mind for anything she might need. Social security cards, birth certificates, state ID's, and photo albums had been the first things she's grabbed. And if she didn't get what she needed now, she knew that she would never see it again.
She was never coming back here again.
And then the phone rang. Its sharp trill had made her jump, a caged and tortured animal desperate for escape.
Once, twice, three times, the ringing screamed in her ears, her body tensed in indecision as she stared at it. Finally Penny picked up the receiver, one hand clasped to her chest as if to quell her pounding heart. She raised the brightly white device to her contrasting ebony cheek, trying desperately to steady her breathing. An authoritative voice spoke before she could even greet her caller.
"Is this Mrs. Penelope Fairchild?"
Her brows furrowed, had he realized what she was doing? Had he ordered one of his cop friends to call and hassle her? Panic coursed through her. It wouldn't be the first time…
"Yes, this is she." Her voice was wavering, almost breathless.
There was a regretful sigh on the other line.
"Mrs. Fairchild… I'm sorry to inform you of this, but your husband… Your husband was killed today while apprehending a suspect in a bank robbery..."
At this, the phone slipped from her hands, clattering loudly onto the floor. Her breath caught in her throat, and yet, with a light touch of her fingers to her inflamed eye, a glance to her son, with his marred cheek, the tears never came.
It was early morning, and the coffee shop was crowded, loud, and full of chattering people. The sound of cappuccino's being made and the register chime with orders being placed would have distracted anyone. Yet Lucy Palmer was lost in her own world. She sat in a corner of the café, a lukewarm macchiato and discarded biscotti at the far end of her table. Music sheets were scattered around her, and in her mind a symphony played, reaching above the racket the coffee shop, blocking out the noise. She copied the notes quickly, afraid that if she didn't she'd loose the magic of it, lose the mood and the love that weaved through her body. The intricate melody was a story, it was her story, and like her it was at times turbulent and unsure of itself. But it was beautiful. Even in its draft form it conveyed the shaky work of a master, a skilled protégé, and it was superb to anyone who might hear it, even an untrained ear.
Though they never would...
The blare of her cell phone interrupted her thoughts, harshly cutting into the conduction of her muse and effectively ending its progression. It was her father, and his anger seemed to come to her in waves through the tiny device. Lucy cringed and, feeling not for the first time that her father must always know when she was off doing something he considered a sin, gathered her purse and cold coffee. She left the coffee shop in a hurry, answering her phone upon her exit in as innocent and cheerful of a voice she could muster.
The sheets of music lay on the table, later to be tossed into a trash bin by a barista, never to reach the ears of anyone so lucky to hear it.
The handcuffs were cold against her wrists. They left an imprint on her skin, and caused her finger tips to become a light blue hue from lack of circulation. This was courtesy of an over enthusiastic police officer, obviously worried about her trying to break for it in the middle of a crowded court room, especially since the cameras were rolling. She rolled her eyes at that and wriggled her wrists to try and get some blood flowing through them.
Valentina tried very hard not to show the panic she was feeling at the moment, not to show the absolute fear and hysteria that was threatening to bubble out of her. It wouldn't matter anyway.
Nothing mattered. Not anymore.
She had been found guilty. Guilty by her peers, guilty by her rotund Judge, and guilty by all around her, all that looked at her with accusing eyes and certain knowledge that she was monster.
And now her fate would be decided. She took a deep breath as the judge entered the courtroom, knowing that he was about to resign her to a life of imprisonment. Her court appointed attorney had told her as much.
The Honorable Judge Watkins was large, bald, and wore glasses that were much too big for his small eyes. He cleared his throat, the loose skin of his neck quivering from side to side as he did so.
"Please stand," The bailiff announced. The courtroom did so, and went silent.
"Mrs. Valentina Marie Harriston," the judge's glabrous head gleamed from the overhead lights as he bent his face forward to read the document of her guilty sentence.
"The court has previously found you guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree, an unclassified level of felony, both with specifications of death, making this a capital case. As is the brutality and outstanding violence of this crime, the court has decided that, in the interest of the public and the states view of the levity of this crime, you are being sentenced to death by lethal injection." At this the judge had to pause as murmurs ran through the courtroom. He waited a moment before continuing, "You shall be incarcerated until a time is scheduled for your execution. If you wish, you may choose to appeal within a sixty day period. As part of your appeal you will also be given the chance to obtain clemency. It is so ordered, by the state in New York, and the city of Manhattan." The gavel hit with an echoing clatter.
For a moment, Valentina felt her world freeze. Her heart stopped, her face a wide eyed expression of disbelief.
She'd known she was going to take the fall for this, knew that she was going to be the one that was blamed. And why not? All evidence pointed to her anyway. It seemed to almost have been orchestrated that way, really. ... But death? Never, not in her wildest dreams, had she thought this would be the outcome. It was a capital case, but the rarity of executions in Manhattan, and her public defenders assurance that it wasn't truly a possibility, had calmed her worry. A worry that she clearly should have had all along.
All around her cameras clicked, an eruption of flashes bursting though the court room. Next to her, Valentina's public defender laid a hand on her should, as if to comfort her. She shrugged it off, looking at the Judge in disbelief.
"No." She whispered hoarsely, the earth speeding back up to a normal rate, making her feel queasy and sick with vertigo. Then she felt the young police officer take her arm and start to pull her towards the exit. The panic that she'd held in spilled out now, like a dam breaking open. This was real. She was going to death row and, at some point in the future, they were going to execute her.
"No!" she yelled. "No, wait! I'm not guilty." She struggled to detach herself from the officer and saw another rushing towards her.
"Please!" she screeched.
Before, when she had realized that they had no way of proving her innocence, no way of disproving all the evidence that had mounted against her, she had taken comfort that she could continue to fight from her jail cell. That she could still fight this, provided she had the time to do so. But now, the clock had started, and time was running out.
Something broke inside of Val then, and she began sobbing. "Please believe me," she shouted. "I'm innocent!"
The second officer had begun to help drag her from the court room. She was hysterical. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she screamed for mercy.
And through them her eyes connected with his. Her step-father, stoic and somber through it all, looked at her and smiled.
"No! No I'm innocent, I didn't kill anyone! I didn't fucking kill anyone! Someone please help me. Let me go! Help!" She was kicking as the police officers lifted her off her feet by her elbows.
"Please, not death, not for something I didn't even do. I'm not guilt-" And then she was carried out of the courtroom, her voice silenced with the swift slam of the doors.
Everyone looked at her…
Theresa Colden was beautiful. Long hair the color of honey, skin with almost a golden glow.
Everyone looked at her…
She was quick-witted and intelligent, her humor clever, and her tongue sharp. Her personality was infectious.
Everyone looked at her…
She had gotten top grades in college and was now quickly becoming one of the top lawyers in the city. She was a great debater, a great litigator, and all around, a great person. People seemed to flock to her as if there was some sort of magnetism surrounding her. She was charitable and kind and tenacious.
And while everyone looked at her, he watched and he waited. She never saw him, his ability to hide had always been his talent, but he was there.
He was there on dark nights, following her down the city streets. He was there outside her bedroom window or by himself in the restaurant where she would have lunch with her colleagues. He was there inside her home while she took a shower, just breathing in the scent of her as steam billowed out of the cracked door and onto his lusting face.
He watched and he waited. Waited for his chance, waited for the right time to make his move.
And it would be soon…
I haven't seen the ghost
And am I really here at all?
I'm silent, I'm the moon
One eye open,
I'm waiting, waiting.
It was raining at the cemetery. The little tarp awning was barely protecting the family and friends that surrounded the sleek casket from the stinging rain, coming down in biting cold sheets.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." The minister spoke in desolate tones. Thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance, a flash of lightening far off from the soggy plot of land.
I swallowed a knife
I hold it in.
And every single time I breathe,
I cut a bit of me.
And it leaves my heart open.
Slowly, the ivory box was lowered into the ground and the mourners began to gradually scatter back to their cars. Tears were on some of their faces, others seemed like they didn't really care, hadn't really known her well enough to mourn the way others were. Either way it didn't matter. She was gone. Nothing could change that...
I feel you
My spectre yet unseen
Did you get the lilies I sent?
Did the violin that played
Make its way through the gauzy curtain?
Away from the lamenting and their woeful eyes stood four shadowed figures, and all four had a deep sadness in their hearts for the girl that was lost to them, ripped from the world in sudden violence. They stood and watched as all the grieving departed and the wet soil was covered over the casket. The tarp was taken down, and the caretakers, soaked to the bone, quickly left in search of a dryer space. One of the figures broke away from the others, uncaring of the fact that he was not disguised, uncaring that he could be seen easily by anyone who might be lingering near the grave site. He walked to the grave and dropped to his knees in front of the headstone, hands trembling and head shaking in disbelief. Water ran down his face as he stared miserably at the grave. Reaching out, he ran his fingers over the name on the headstone.
Jaden Nicollet Chambers
May you forever rest in peace, knowing you were loved.
A marble cherub lay over the tombstone, a fat marble tear caught on its cheek.
A hand came to rest on Michelangelo's shoulder.
"Come on Mikey, let's go."
Donatello's voice was gentle and sad, laced with an emotion that was improperly placed. Tears blended with the rain streaming over Michelangelo's face, nearly blinding him. He stood and wiped them away, taking one last unhindered look at the grave before him.
"I love you." He whispered, and then he turned and left, his brothers following behind.
Come find the place where the curtain is thin.
Wink at the watchman,
And he'll let you in.
Lyrics by Stephanie Dosen, A Lily for the Spectre