General warnings: If you've read my work, you know what to watch out for. If you haven't… Good luck and know that I pray for your safe journey.
Chapter warnings: Language, light references to religious themes,racial slurs, reference to death, crude imagery, reference to illegal activities, reference to illegal substances, reference to use of illegal substances, reference to death of minors, reference to participating in criminal activities, reference to illicit acts. Reference to spineless assholes?
Authour's Note: Hey! So, this doesn't look like the next chapter to Casting Stones (which is still in progress, it's just being a pain in the ass) and this idea's been eating at my soft brain matter for a while now. So I'm sharing it. I have plenty more to show you too, so hope you enjoy!
Edit: Fixed a tiny lapse of Duo referencing himself in third-person... Oops?
"You're shittin' me."
I stare down my boss, the man's body curling in on himself - cringing - against the blankness of my eyes. His voice catches, stumbles, as he tries to explain himself; excuse his behaviour.
"I- I- really believe this is th- the b-best option..." he counters, in his reedy, weak, pathetic voice. If the man had anything worse than his taste in clothes, it was his self-confidence. Like I said, pathetic.
"But ghost hunters? For real? Are you that delusional?" I persist, feeling a small surge of joy fill me as the man flinches. Really, how did this guy ever manage to become my boss? I ignore the little whisper of thought that answers the question, instead continuing to verbally tear the man to pieces.
"The flickering and strange lights can be easily explained by the fact that the wiring in this building is so bad, I wouldn't be surprised to turn the lights on one morning and set the fuckin' place on fire. Suzie's injuries are because the damn girl can't even walk a straigh' line, and the 'ghostly figure' is Suzie's drugs wearin' off," I spit, exaggeratingly counting each 'valid claim' off on my fingers.
The man puffs up, trying to put on a bravado I know he really doesn't feel. "I would rather trust the word of a professional than the beliefs of a criminal," he starts, but a cough interrupts the (harsh) retort I was about to give back. My boss flushes, straightening his facial features into what he assumes is 'inviting and friendly,' and politely inquires if he could assist at the same time I boredly ask, "What the hell do you want?"
"Are you Mr. Eustace Harcrow?" the young man asks; he can't be any older than I am, though that doesn't mean much as I look him over. Looks are deceiving after all. I was ready to tell him 'Do I look like a Eustace?' when my boss replies to the man.
"Yes, that is me. Are you Mr. Yuy?"
I restrain myself (with great effort) to not look at my boss in knee-jerk startlement. I had forgotten what his real name is, so used to just referring to him as the 'Spineless piece of shit' both in thought and in words. The way he blinks at his name makes me wonder if he started to think 'spineless' is his real name as well.
"I am. This is my assistant, Chang. Can you elaborate on the details of your situation?" 'Mr. Yuy' demands; there isn't really another way to take his question. Spineless swallows, before trying to put his professional smile to use (which he sucks at), and I see 'Chang' wince. At least I'm not the only one who thinks it looks like Spineless is about to shit himself when he tries that.
"There have been strange things happening in the building," Spineless starts, his voice falling into the 'mysterious' voice he also isn't so good at using. "Lights flickering when you enter a room, some of them even just going out and a strange green-blue glow in other rooms, and the temperature drops randomly. One of my employees, a young girl named Susan, has had objects thrown at her without a source as well as seen an apparition while on the night shift."
I roll my eyes, slumping against the back wall. Suzie might have thought a ghost was throwing shit at her, but then again she thinks that the gremlins are trying to eat her french toast and that Mexicans are going to kidnap her and sell all of her organs to aliens. Anything that 'young girl' claims is probably a result of sniffing too many Sharpie markers in the back room between fixes.
'Mr. Yuy' eyes me for a moment before looking back at my boss. "I will interview Ms. Susan myself-"
"Porter. Her name's Susan Porter, and that would be a former Mrs. on top of that," I interrupt jovially, winking at the sharp look 'Mr. Yuy' shoots me for cutting him off.
"-Mrs. Porter later, along with you, Mr...?" Yuy (I can't keep tacking that Mr. on to his name, he just isn't... Mr.-y enough!) trails off, obviously wanting my name. I debate for a split-second on pretending to think about answering, or ignoring the prompt, but the guy looks like if I were to try that I might end up in tomorrow's obituary section, so I give in without a fight.
"Duo Maxwell, and please leave off the Mr., or I might have to remove something from you," I add with a wink, and only get a frown in return. Wow, tough crowd...
"Mr. Maxwell will be interviewed first as he is currently available." I grimace at the emphasized prefix, letting out a gusty sigh and letting my body slouch.
"Alright then, just be gentle, it's my first time," I tease, and I hear Chang choke. Good, at least I got some reaction!
"Duo, please behave yourself and be a positive example of our store," Spineless asks, but it sounds more like a plead. I raise my eyebrow, as if to imply 'and you are?' The flush that spreads down his neck shows he got my message loud and clear. Yuy clears his throat, and I look over at him again, smiling brightly.
"Here, there's a lounge in the back we can chat at. Don't want any customers," I take the time to exaggeratingly look around the empty storefront, "to get a bad impression!"
I sip at my can, my legs crossed under me on the cushiony chair. I love this chair, having bought and brought it to the store myself. As much as I hate working here, and hate working for Spineless, I spend most of my time here, even days at a time. I can't help it, it's part of the job and I really don't have the option to tell Spineless to go fuck himself. Yuy is ignoring the drink in front of him while Chang sips at a cup of water, eyeing the contents as if they're laced with arsenic. I hold back the temptation to tell him he's not paranoid, but decide I've pushed his buttons enough for tonight.
"Okay, shoot. What'cha wanna know?"
"Can you share your experiences with this haunting?"
I sigh, leaning back in my chair and letting my disbelief show.
"I honestly don't believe that this piece of shit is haunted. Each and every so-called 'paranormal' event can easily be explained away," I explain, and I see Yuy scribble on his little yellow pad.
"So the flickering lights and strange glow?"
"The flickering lights are easy 'nuff to explain away; wiring. This piece of shit's so... well... shitty that it's not even close to being within code. Any inspector would shut the place down upon steppin' in the door. The glowing... well, let's put it this way. It's merchandise that can't exactly be placed in the storefront, or some of Suzie's personal stash."
Chang's raised brow is answered by my own knowing one, and he looks away in disgust. I shrug, shifting in my seat. It's not like I enjoy my job, I just can't get any legit work here. I do what I can.
"I'm guessing 'Suzie' is Susan Porter?" Yuy clarifies. I nod, sighing.
"Psycho bitch in all her glory." Yuy snorts, scribbling down more notes.
"I'm guessing from having a 'personal stash' that you don't believe her claims of being attacked," Yuy guesses, and I nod cheerfully.
"Yup! She's a crackpot, and I'm putting it nicely. She has bruises, that's for sure, but it wasn't no ghost that gave 'em to her. She still thinks that her organs are desired by aliens."
"Foreigners?" Chang asks, puzzled. I snicker, shaking my head.
"Of the little green variety. Not sure where they hail from, but it ain't this planet."
"So you're saying that nothing unnatural is occurring, from what you've witnessed."
"Sorry to put a damper on your... job," I say the word with as little sarcasm as I can manage (and the dick, Chang, still gives me a look), "but nothing's happening around here that a good electrician couldn't make right. And a rehab clinic."
"Thank you for your perspective. I'm sure you can understand we'd still like to have a look around," Yuy says, closing his notepad and placing it in his pocket. I nod, standing up.
"I'll give ya the tour, if you can keep your traps shut." I give them both hard looks, making sure they understand my meaning. Don't go blabbin' to the cops, and I'll let you look around.
I get understanding nods from both of them, and I grin. "Okay then, five-star quality tour from yours truly comin' right up!" I toss my now-empty can into the trash, hearing the metal knock against glass. Chang drops his still-full cup of water into the bin as we pass by it into the hall. I take a deep breath before letting my boss know what we're doing.
"Hey you spineless piece of shit! I'm showin' these guys 'round to look fer tha' 'ghost' of yours!" I hear one of the guys behind me take a sharp breath, but I pretend I haven't just insulted my employer in front of them. Instead, I just keep walking.
"Okay, these are our storage rooms. Suzie claims she saw the ghost in the second one on the right," I tell them, gesturing to the cold metal door. I pull out my keycard, sticking it into the slot under the handle and opening it for them to look in. I leave it open as I move across the hall, opening the door directly opposite of the one the two 'ghost hunters' are examining.
"This is the one where Suzie was attacked." I lean against the outside of the room, not having any intense desire to join them in the holding cells. While right now they only hold drugs and other questionable merchandise, they have seen their share of human beings as well. I'm not too excited to become one of them.
"Do you need anything else, or can I go show my boss how to operate the store?" I ask them, already hearing the faint muffles of Spineless getting overwhelmed. I get an absent nod, and I quickly move towards the front of the store.
"-been waiting for two weeks, Spineless, I just want-" I cut into the argument, knowing the voice speaking.
"Howie! My good man, what brings you out to our little corner of Purgatory?" The dark look leaves the face of the elderly man, a bright grin forming quickly in its wake.
"Duo! An' here I was thinkin' you finally went and made somethin' of yourself! Still hanging around this piece of shit?" he asks me, and I know he isn't referring to the store in that last question. I grin, shaking my head sadly.
"No, I'm still here, sadly 'nuff. Workin' with a couple guys in the back right now, or I'da been here to tell ya why the goods aren't here yet. The piece of shit here's clueless as to everythin', so he didn't know."
We continue talking over Spineless' head, the man turning redder and redder as the insults grow worse. Finally, Howie sighs, shrugging his shoulders roughly as he sticks his hands in his pockets.
"Well, you can't help the border patrols, so I'll let you off the hook. That, and you're a good kid. Get the fuck outta the business and I won't have ta beat the tar outta you."
"I'm tryin' buddy, believe me," I assure him, handing over two grand from the safe. "Though you're just bein' a hypocrite."
"I'm no kid though," he shoots back, and I just grin brightly. He snorts, shoving my shoulder.
"Well, gotta run. Talk to ya later."
I wave, immediately moving to rejoin the two 'ghost hunters' in the back room. I completely ignore my spinless shithead of a boss, who I think is trying to talk to me, as I lean on the outside wall of the room they are inspecting. A strange meter is in one of their hands, completely unmoving.
"Anything spooky show up yet?" I ask sarcastically, causing Chang to jump and scowl at me. Yuy shakes his head, pocketing the meter. How deep are the guy's pockets?
"Negative readings for any paranormal activity. That could be caused by either lack of a paranormal presence or that it is hiding from strangers inside of its territory."
"Oh, so now it's shy," I drawl, letting my head fall against the wall. Seriously, I just want the two dudes out of my work area. Having strangers snooping in my territory is starting to piss me off, not cause any shy feelings.
"It's a common occurrence, a spectral presence observing newcomers for signs of threat. Some are aware if they 'fail' to appear the strangers will leave. Other cases it picks up drastically, their curiosity causing paranormal activity to increase sharply."
"Oh. So pretty much anything could happen," I snort, rolling my shoulders. "Could you just hurry up so I can go home?"
"I would like to place a camera to observe any activities that might occur with our lack of presence," Yuy says, seeming to ignore my question-slash-demand. I frown at the thought of anyone taping anything inside my store.
"Look buddy, I can't just let-"
"Mr. Harcrow gladly complied with this necessity when he arranged for us to come investigate," he interrupts, and the familiar impulse to brutally murder my 'esteemed employer' rears its head.
That. Spinless. Useless. Piece of shit. Dick!
"Fine!" I snap, turning my back dismissively. "Just hurry it up. I ain't got all night, yanno."
Nothing more is said as they run a wire into both storerooms, setting up two small cameras in each room as well as in the hallway. When they finish, I lock back up the rooms, cautious of the cords.
"Okay, now get the hell out so I can finish locking up."
I seriously didn't plan this. While it had been a thought that had crossed my mind, I didn't deliberately go out of my way to follow through with the thought. That's probably why I drag him into the passenger seat and drive him to the hospital after hitting him with the front end of my car.
The hospital staff are very attentive to him when I drag him into the waiting room. I have never seen anyone move so fast as the portly woman who laid eyes on the man in my arms. They start shouting things to each other in jargon I'm unfamiliar with; the questions they direct my way are easy enough to understand, though much harder to answer.
"Yes, I hit him."
"I didn't seen him!"
"I don't know where he lives."
"I've met him before, yes."
"I only know him as Chang."
They say he isn't too seriously injured, that I was going slow enough when I impacted that it is mostly superficial and bruising. A couple weeks and he'll be right as rain. When he regains consciousness, he'll be allowed to leave after a short observation.
I'm not allowed to leave yet though.
The questions the cops ask are much harder to answer.
"I didn't mean to hit him."
"No, I don't want him dead."
"Yes, I have a license."
"I was a bit more occupied in gettin' the guy here than rememberin' where I left it, okay?"
"Are you trying to say I tried to kill him?"
"Do you have any proof?"
"I'd like to see your ID, buddy, I don't believe you're really a cop."
"Go ahead, frisk me. You'd like it."
"No, that ain't a knife, buddy."
I'm put into holding for the night, but I know a word placed in the right ear will have me out by morning. It isn't my first time I've been held overnight, and most likely it isn't going to be my last; I have a hard time holding my tongue when being interrogated.
Sure enough, Howie is chatting with the young female guard I harassed all night when I walk into the front lobby. Giving me a wink, he exclaims, "There's my favourite nephew, once again walking to freedom!"
"Hello Uncle Howard," I sigh, slumping. God, he's giving the 'My Poor Misguided Nephew' spiel again. I honestly prefer his 'My Horrible Delinquent Godson' act more; that one leaves me looking less like a catholic-boy-fallen-from-grace and more like a catholic-boy-who-never-gave-a-shit.
"Come on Jonathan, let's get you back to your mother, she's worried sick about you!" Howie states (loudly and clearly for everyone to hear) boldly, and I just nod.
"Yes Uncle Howard."
Howard drops me off in front of my apartment, handing over the keys to my car. He was silent during the drive back to my place, but as I move to get out of the car, his sharp voice stops me in mid-movement.
"There's only so many more times I'll be able to pull yer ass outta tha' fire, kid. You need to get out of here."
"Easier said than done," I remind him, letting the bitterness of that statement show full force. "You think I like working for that piece of shit, and living in this place?" I gesture to the condemned building, a habitat for those on the shady side of legal; the only place people like me are allowed.
"I told you, I can get papers made that show-"
"And then what? Go work in a job with credentials I don't have? Go to school? I can have all the papers I want made, it won't take the place of experience. I haven' got no education, no name, no life. Papers ain't gonna change that."
"It would still get your ass out of this shit hole and into a place you could actually become someone."
"I was someone until Solo died," I remind him, and the conversation dies abruptly. Solo's a subject no one's allowed to talk about.
I leave his car, slamming his door in my ire. I had managed two days without having Solo pop into existence, and I know that the twelve-pack in the fridge isn't going to make it to the weekend.
"You ran over my assistant," Yuy says as I walk through the door to work. I pause, blinking tiredly at him.
"Wha?" I mumble, trying to think of what he's talking about. It's hard to think right now, the eight bottles on the floor next to my bed giving away the reason to my condition. Yuy sighs, coming over to stand in front of me. His hands grip my shoulders tightly, his face moving very close to mine. The inane thought to lick his nose surfaces, and a giggle escapes my throat.
"You. Ran. Over. Wufei."
"Whozzat?" I ask dumbly, looking around. Seeing no one, I look back at Yuy. "Where's your buddy dude?"
"In the hospital, where he went after you ran him over."
"Oh, why'd I do that?" I ask him, and the floor pops up out of the ground to smack my face. It only does that after Yuy's fist does first though, so it must be trying to fit in.
"That's a good question, isn't it? Now get your ass off the floor and grab my bag. You're working for me tonight."
"Bu' Spineless can' runa reg'st'r..." I complain, and Yuy snorts.
"He'll manage. Come on." I push up off the ground, standing wobbly. I manage to catch my balance before trying for round two with the concrete floor, and grab the black bag Yuy had pointed out while I was still wrestling the ground. I stumble after the man, who is walking at a very brisk pace.
"Slow down, buddy, where's the fire?"
"I'm not in the mood for you. Shut up and remove the tapes from each camera."
I mumble some crude remarks under my breath, though I'm sure the asshole hears each one; I'm not trying very hard to keep it that quiet. After removing the tapes, I hand them over to the bastard with a snarky, "Anything else, my lord?"
"Take down the cameras carefully then take them to the break room we interviewed you in. After that, call in your coworker Susan Porter and have her here for her interview at 22:45 this evening. After that, lie down until you sober up enough to work again."
"Yessir," I mumble sarcastically, but all Yuy does is storm out of the storeroom, and all I do is start taking apart the cameras. Yuy might be an asshole, but he isn't a spineless dick I can push around either. I prefer his way of working, honestly.
"Mrs. Porter, can you share your experiences during the events that have taken place in the storage rooms?" Yuy asks, in a gentle tone I can't picture him using, despite being right here to see it. Suzie's shaking, and I know it ain't from fear. She must not have had her ten o'clock hit before coming in.
"I- I was movin' some- some stu-stuff from tha' back t-to the fr-fr-front... a-and it started throwin' the st-stuff at me!"
"Did you see anyone or anything during this event?" Yuy calmly continues, either not finding her completely delusional or just much better at hiding it than I am; I know my face is twisting already.
"N-no. I-I was duckin', ain' lookin' for it!"
"Okay, that is fine. But you did see a specter the following night in the room across the one you were attacked in, correct?"
"Y-yeah... I- th-thought it was one of 'em Mexi's... b-b-but they ain' see-through!"
I catch a glimpse of confusion in Yuy's eyes, but he continues as if Suzie is making perfect sense.
"Can you describe the specter? Appearance, behavior, any words or gestures?"
"It... just stared. Just stood there... covered in blood..." Suzie whispers, her voice steadier than it's ever been. Even in my still slightly-drunken state, I pay close attention. She never mentioned this before during her hysteria.
"It didn't say anything."
"It... it only asked me why... I don't know what it wanted to know..."
"Was it a male or female?"
"A- a boy... a little boy..."
I close my eyes, biting my cheek. And here I thought some little waif got into the store last week and was just trying to lift something. Maybe it wasn't so simple.
"Do you have anything to add, Mr. Maxwell?" Yuy's voice cuts into my thoughts, and I glance up, startled.
"I, I don't know," I admit warily. "I saw a little boy in the store last week, but he wasn't covered in blood, an' he sure wasn't asking me why."
"Interesting," Yuy mutters, scribbling once more on the pad. Suzie is crying now, her eyeliner having run down to the corners of her brightly-painted lips. I sit next to her, placing a comforting arm around her thin shoulders.
"Don' worry Suzie, this guy'll make it go 'way an' things can go back to norm' 'round here, 'kay?" I try to comfort her, failing horribly as she just sobs harder. I know it's harder for her to handle, having given birth to four children and losing all of them to disease.
What do we know about normal anyways? I shove the bitter thought aside, trying instead to plaster a smile on my face as I look once more at Yuy.
"So, now what 'boss?'" I ask, and he gestures to the old, piece-of-shit computer in the corner.
"I want you to look over the recordings from last night, see if anything outside of the range of normal shows up. I also want you to organize the case notes, sorting them by incident, time, date, and witness. As there are only three of you, that shouldn't take too long. Take any notes that could possibly be significant or relevant, and label them accordingly. After that I will have more instructions, and most likely will conduct another interview with you in regards to the small child you saw."
"Right on it," I yawn, standing and grabbing my bag. Yuy hands me a small tape player, a USB port letting me plug it into the computer. Luckily computers aren't as foreign to me as they are to Suzie and Spineless, so it doesn't take me much time to start watching the tapes.
They consist mainly of long periods of nothing. Evidence of rodents do appear, making me pump my fist in victory; I just won an extra twenty bucks from Spineless, who's been trying to tell me that we don't have any rats in the building.
It takes over four hours of watching the tapes before I notice something. It first looks like just a shimmer of moonlight, but the knowledge of that room lacking windows has me rewinding. Now I'm watching a small hand wave in front of the lense, only a half-second frame of movement capturing the evidence. I slow the tape down, quickly writing down the frame information so that Yuy can watch it himself.
0320 hours, frames 1154-1158. Small hand across image.
The next couple minutes on tape pass without another sight, but on frame 1,188 a small, innocent, see-through face peeks into the camera. It would have been innocent, even natural, if the child wasn't transparent. I can imagine myself peeking into a camera I came across in the same way this kid is. I watch numbly as the child moves around the room, his face turning towards the lense regularly. Curiously. Demandingly.
0322 hours, frames 1188-1267. Male child moving around room. Transparent, age range between 4 years to 7 years (malnourished).
The rest of the tape is blank, at least when it comes to the kid. The storeroom remains empty until I see Spineless coming in to grab a box. Regular business is recorded after that.
The other tapes show small glimpses of the kid. Nothing as significant as the several minutes the kid's wandering inside the storeroom, but showing that the kid did indeed travel between the two rooms through the hallway.
"Anything?" Yuy asks from behind me. I don't look up from the pile I'm sorting, instead gesturing to the paper I wrote the information on.
"Confirmed existence of a young boy. We're haunted," I mutter, sliding almost-illegible notes into the folder I made for Suzie. I wrote several pages of background information on her, or what I know of her at least, so that Yuy can reference that while working on the case. Hey, the guy's an ass, but he's doing rather good work.
And I did run over his usual helper, so I shouldn't slack off or do it half-assed, you know?
"Good job," Yuy tells me, picking up the folder I have labeled 'young boy.' I took advantage of the office printer and had printed off still-frames of each glimpse the boy gave us; the best ones I found of him becoming immortalized in cheap, stolen ink.
"Is this the boy you thought was a thief?" he asks me, and I nod vaguely.
"He was much more solid than he is here," I confirm, setting the now-complete file of Suzie's aside and starting on Spineless'. His is going to be relatively empty, because the dick doesn't spend much time in the store to begin with.
"He must be more comfortable with you," Yuy suggests, and I finally look up at him.
"You wrote here you've seen him seven times, each time he appeared in different clothing and was solid. Mrs. Porter saw him once, covered in blood, and highly transparent. He puts higher effort into his appearance for you."
I digest that tidbit, turning the thought around in my head. I'm not the most approachable guy; my rough personality and biting tongue drive most people away. I am more gentle with children, but not by much (and I don't see much of them anyways).
"I can't tell you why," I tell him honestly. "I've never seen the kid before, don't recognize him from anywhere, and never done anything where he'd like me more than anyone else."
"That's something we will investigate."
"There might be something on recording," I suggest, pointing at the monitor of the computer. "I couldn't find the audio files, so I left that for you."
"Yes, they are confusing; which is why I leave it to Chang to decode the tapes," Yuy mumbles, clicking rapidly on the mouse. Files and programs flash across the screen quicker than I'm able to make out, and soon I can hear the crackle of static. I jump slightly as I hear my own voice come through the shitty speakers.
"Anything spooky show up yet?"
The tape is silent after the short conversation that had followed my question, at least until it hit two in the morning.
Shuffling noises sound through the speakers, and rats immediately jump to mind. The sounds aren't consistent though, pausing and restarting. Soon, a tiny, thin voice is humming a familiar tune.
"...and when the Lord comes down to offer rest, unto the weary and the broken," I whisper, in time with the child's humming. Yuy glances over at me, but stays silent as the noise fades out. I jot down the occurrence, changing the tape.
The child's voice once again is heard. This time, actually talking.
"Mr. Duo, are you in there?" the boy asks, his high-pitched voice echoing slightly as he stares into the camera. After a moment, he huffs, moving away from the lense and walking around the room.
"Mr. Duo's looking for this," the little voice says, as if talking to someone that we can't see. He stops by a box, glancing back at the screen. "When you watch me later, remember it's right here. You're so silly, Mr. Duo."
My throat tightens, my fists clenching to hide the shaking.
I fucking have a stalker... a deadchild stalker!
"Mr. Duo, I'm still waiting. Tell Mommy I'm sorry, okay?"
There is no noise after that. Soon I turn off the speakers, slumping into my seat.
"Who is this child?" Yuy questions, but I don't think he's talking to me.
"I have a one-in-four chance of guessing right, and I don't like any of them," I mumble. I pull open Suzie's file, removing four sheets of paper and handing them to the ghost hunter. He looks quickly over the pages, before sharply fixing me with that cold blue stare I'm becoming much-too-familiar with.
"You're suggesting one of her children is trying to talk to her?"
"That's the only thing I can think of. I just don't know why they want me to do it, instead of just telling her."
"I have some theories about that, which I'll follow up on shortly. I have a different task for you."
As I sit in the storeroom, leaning against a box and staring at the door, I make a mental note to shove a Sharpie down Yuy's throat next time he tells me he has 'a task' for me to do. As the chill seeps into my ass, freezing me even more than the cold air, I up the Sharpie to an entire box of them in Yuy's ass as well.
Bait. I do not do bait. I don't play bait.
Yet I'm still sitting here on the floor, waiting for a little midget stalker ghost to make an appearance.
I look up from where I am trying to melt the steel floor, and see the young boy. He's wearing different clothes again, jean shorts and a bright red shirt. He smiles brightly as I meet his light blue eyes, eyes that I'm more comfortable seeing on his mother.
"Hi buddy, what's your name?" I ask him, and he answers happily.
"What are you doing here, kiddo? Why aren't you at home?"
"I can't go home. Mommy won't let me."
I frown, shifting my numb legs.
"Did she lock you out?" I continue questioning him calmly, trying to figure out if the kid knows he's dead. So far, it doesn't seem like it.
"No, but Mommy never talks to me. She just cries, screams, and takes her bad stuff. I don't like being there."
"So where have you been staying, Shawn?" I ask kindly, patting the ground next to me. He flops down on the ground, curling his legs up to his chest.
"I've been staying at Mommy's work," he whispers, as if sharing a secret; which, thinking about it, he is because we know he's here now. I push that thought aside, acting interested.
"Have you tried talking to your Mommy?"
"Yeah," he pouts, letting his head drop, "but she just started screaming and crying again."
"Shawn, why do you want me to talk to your mother?" I ask him, and his eyes water.
"Because I know you take care of Mommy. You go to our house and make sure she eats, and that she cleans herself in the bathroom. You try to make her stop taking the bad stuff, and you help her try to stay good. You let her cry and then put her in bed to sleep. Mommy would be really sick if you didn't, so I want you to tell Mommy I'm sorry I can't do what you can. I wish I can take care of Mommy, but I can't."
"Why can't you, Shawn, what's stopping you?" I ask, shoving every feeling this damn kid's provoking away into a little corner of my mind; I'll break down later, I have a job to finish right now.
"I... I think I'm dead, Mr. Duo. I can walk through walls, and when I pretend to be invisible people can't see me! And... I don't need to eat, or sleep, or go potty. Am I dead, Mr. Duo?"
"You are Shawn," I whisper, reaching out to brush his bangs. My hand glides gently through him, his hair staying right where it is as my fingers pass through. "You were very sick, and you died. Your mommy was very sad when you died, and she doesn't know how to feel happy again."
"Oh. Tell Mommy I'm okay. I want Mommy to be better. Tell her! Tell her to be better, or I'll be sad too."
"Okay. I will. But you need to do something for me then," I tell him seriously, and he nods back, listening intently. "I need you to find out how to move on, to go on to heaven. You can't stay here, it's not good for you. When people die, they need to go to heaven so that they can be happy."
"I think the nice man will take me," Shawn says with a smile. "I'll tell him I want to go now."
"You do that," I whisper, "and I'll tell your mom what you want her to do, okay?"
"Okay! Thank you, Mr. Duo! I knew I could count on you."
"So he's moved on," Yuy concludes, snapping his notebook shut. I just stare blankly at the wall, trying to block out the sounds of Suzie's cries beside me. Spineless is absent, not having bothered to turn up to the meeting.
"I don't know what to do!" Suzie wails, and I glare at her.
"Honor his wishes! Stop the fuckin' drugs, pull yourself together, and start fuckin' living! Your agony almost cost him eternal happiness!"
Apparently my words don't comfort her, as she reaches new heights in her screeching. I sigh bitterly, turning my glare back to the wall. Maybe if I try hard enough, it will light on fire... Just a bit harder...
I snap my head over to look at Yuy, who's fixing me with his own glare. I blink, tilting my head.
"Yeah, what is it?"
"Here is your payment for your involvement in this investigation. For the amount of work you've covered, as well as the various degrees of difficulty in these tasks, the total amount comes to six-hundred-forty-five dollars."
I whistle low, taking the envelope. Glancing over the front, my eyes pause at the scrawled name on the top left corner.
"Heero? Seriously, your name is Heero?"
I come to a sudden epiphany about how my measly glare at the wall would never have started a flame; Heero's though, his is capable of igniting the whole fuckin' block. I try to keep my eyes fixed on his much-too-blue ones, and I feel the smoke starting to rise from my burning flesh. I can almost trick myself into thinking I smell it as well, but I know that's just Suzie's attempt at brewing coffee, currently fermenting in the corner.
There's a reason I stick to canned soda here at work, after all.
"We're changing lots," the spineless bastard tells me, his voice fading in and out over the cheap telephone line that I wired to my apartment. I snort, rolling onto my back and staring at the stained ceiling.
"So the cops are sniffin' too close again. Okay, how long will I have before the roof comes down on us?"
"You won't have any time. You're not coming."
I sit up, anger flaring deep in my chest.
"What the fuck'ya mean I'm not coming? You expectin' me to stay here?"
"You're fired. You're not helping, you're not coming, you're never to show your face in my building again. Are we clear?"
"Crystal. Just know, Eustace Harcrow, that just because I can't step foot into your thriving business, it doesn't mean we won't be seeing each other again. How's the baby? Angie, isn't it? She's a beauty, certainly not yours, not with that thick dark hair and that cute pert nose you always tell people she gets from her mother-"
"You stay away from my house!" Spineless shouts down the line, and I give a dark laugh.
"See you soon, you spineless piece of trash!" I hear the line go dead, and I throw the phone at the wall in fury. It shatters into a rain of black plastic and metal, but I can't be bothered to care, instead rolling onto my stomach and screaming into my pillow. That fucking bastard-
My thoughts are interrupted by a ringing noise. I roll off the bed, crouching low as I stare in disbelief at the phone's remains. There's no way in hell that thing can be ringing...
It's not. I see my pants, the pants I last wore the day Heero Yuy left my life, the pants that are vibrating near the pocket, a tiny blue square of light shining through the fabric.
"I... don't own a cell," I mutter, cautiously moving towards the possessed article of clothing. They have to be possessed, because I don't own a damn cell-
To my immense disappointment, there aren't any supernatural powers bestowed on my favourite pair of bluejeans. Instead, there is an actual cell phone in the pocket. A cell phone I never bought, and a cell phone I obviously don't recognise. A cell phone that won't stop ringing.
Hesitantly, I accept the call, placing it against my ear. I don't say a word, but whoever the fuck's calling me doesn't share that reluctance.
"You're to be in my office tomorrow morning at zero-eight-hundred hours for work. I don't accept tardiness. You'll be briefed on your job duties upon arrival, which will involve helping Chang move around the office. Don't show up drunk."
The line goes dead, but a grin forms on my face.
"Got it, Heero. Tomorrow at eight..."
My neighbour bangs on her wall as I laugh, apparently not finding this to be as hilarious as I do. Guy's a fuckin' psychic, I tell you!