Author's Note: Thank you so much for the favourites, alerts, and reviews. Thank you for your patience as the last few chapters took far too much time than they should. The next book will be out later but right now I want to focus on my other fanfics since I haven't updated Austen House in two months. Please review one last time and I hope you enjoy this final chapter.
How it all ended that day was with Jack and Jesse and me helping Father Dominic, when he finally came around, to a phone, so that he could call the police and report that he'd stumbled across a pair of thieves looting the place.
A lie, yes. But how else was he going to explain all the damage Maria and Diego had done? Not to mention the bump on his noggin.
Then, once we were sure the police and an ambulance were on their way, Jesse and I left Father Dominic and waited with Jack for the cab we'd called, carefully not talking about the one thing I'm pretty sure we were all thinking: Paul.
"I don't wanna think about that jerk!" Brad whined.
"I don't want Suze to think about that jerk," Jake muttered darkly.
Not that I didn't try to get Jack to tell me what was up with his brother and all.
"Suze!" Andy cried out horrified. "You don't dare pester that poor kid after everything he has been through."
Basically, the conversation went like this:
Me: "So, Jack. What is up with your brother?"
"Subtle," Jake snorted.
Jack: (scowling) "I don't want to talk about it."
Me: "I can fully appreciate that. However, he appears to be able to move freely between the realms of the living and the dead, and I find this alarming. Do you think it is possible that he is the son of Satan?"
The boys sniggered at that.
"Susannah!" Helen hissed. "Jack said he didn't want to talk about it!"
Me: "I mean that in the nicest possible way."
"I bet she did," Jake smirked.
"Yeah right," Brad snickered.
Jack: "I said I don't want to talk about it."
Me: "Which is perfectly understandable. But did you know before now that Paul is a mediator, too? Or were you as surprised as we were? Because you didn't seem very surprised when you ran into him, you know, up there."
"Susannah Simon you leave that poor boy alone or so help me God-"
"She has a point," Andy interrupted, "I fear that Paul might have used their mutual powers to scare Jack."
"That…I can't even think of the right word for him," Jake growled. Teasing your brother is one thing but tormenting them into a frightened wreak? Well that was just psychotic.
Jack: "I really don't want to talk about this right now."
Jesse: "He doesn't want to talk about it, Susannah. Leave the boy alone."
"Listen to Jesse," Helen said firmly.
Which was easy for Jesse to say. Jesse didn't know what I did. Which was that Paul and Maria and Diego . . . they had all been in cahoots. It had taken me a while to realize it, but now that I had, I could have kicked myself for not seeing it before: Paul's keeping me occupied at Friday's while Maria had Jack perform the exorcism on Jesse. Paul's remark - "It's easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar." Hadn't Maria said the exact same thing to me, not a few hours later?
David scowled darkly at the book. He had sincerely hoped he was wrong but of course once again he was right.
The three of them - Paul, Maria, and Diego - had formed an unholy trinity, bound, apparently by a common hatred of one person: Jesse.
"I don't understand that."
"Why?" Jake teased. "Your little brain incapable of computing such a conspiracy?"
"No," Brad snarled, "I meant that I don't understand what Paul had against Jesse. He didn't even know that the guy existed until very recently."
"Jealousy," Helen said grimly, "it would have been jealousy and resentment over the fact that Suze refused to date him."
"What a swell guy," Andy muttered sarcastically.
But what possible reason could Paul, who'd never even met Jesse until that moment in purgatory, have to hate him? Now, of course, his dislike was understandable: Jesse had done him a very great bodily injury, something for which Paul has sworn to repay him next time he saw him.
"One would hope that that would be never," David mumbled.
I'm sure Jesse wasn't taking it too seriously, but I was worried. I mean, I'd just gone to a lot of trouble to get Jesse out of one sticky situation. I wasn't too enthused about seeing him plunge straight into another one.
But it was no good. Jack wouldn't talk. The kid was traumatized. Well, sort of. He actually seemed like he'd had a pretty good time. He just didn't want to talk about his brother.
"I think it's safe to say the poor kid is traumatised."
Which bummed me out. Because I had a lot of questions. For instance, if Paul was a mediator - and he had to be; how else could he have been walking around up there? - why hadn't he helped his little brother out with the whole I see dead people thing, said a few words of encouragement, assured the poor kid he wasn't crazy?
"Because he is a selfish, spoilt, psychopathic creep and that's just the surface."
But if I'd hoped to get any answers out of Jack on that account, I was sadly disappointed.
I guess if I'd had a brother like Paul, I probably wouldn't have wanted to talk about it, either.
"Exactly! So leave the poor kid alone!"
Once Jack had been safely dropped off at the hotel, Jesse and I began the long walk home (I didn't have enough money on me for a ride from the hotel back to my house).
"I'm proud that she put Jack ahead of her needs once more," Andy beamed.
You might wonder what we talked about during that two-mile trek. A lot, surely, might have been discussed.
"I bet," Jake muttered.
And yet, to tell you the truth, I can't remember. I don't think we really talked about anything important. What was there to say, really?
I snuck in as successfully as I'd snuck out. No one woke up, except the dog, and once he saw it was me, he went right back to sleep.
"We need a better guard dog," Andy grumbled.
No one had noticed that I'd been gone.
No one ever does.
"That's not true!" Helen exclaimed. She didn't like how that sounded at all. As if Suze thought that they could all live without her in their lives.
Spike was the only one besides me who'd noticed Jesse was gone, and his joy at seeing him again was an embarrassment to felines everywhere. I could hear the stupid cat purring all the way across the room...
"Awwww," Helen cooed, "how sweet."
Brad grimaced he still thought that cat was a monster out to get him.
Although I didn't listen for long. That's because what happened was, I walked in, pulled down the bedclothes, slipped off my slides, and climbed into bed. I didn't even wash my face. I climbed into bed, looked one last time at Jesse as if to reassure myself he was really back, and then I went to sleep.
And I stayed asleep until Sunday.
"I wish I could do that," Jake said dreamily.
My mother became convinced I was coming down with mono.
"I was so worried," Helen murmured. "I thought she had died or something."
At least until she saw the bruise on my forehead. Then she decided I was suffering from an aneurysm. Much as I tried to convince her that neither of these things was true - that I was just really, really tired - she didn't believe me, and would, I'm convinced, have dragged me to the hospital Sunday morning for an MRI - hey, I had been asleep for almost two days - except that she and Andy had to drive up to Doc's camp to bring him home.
"You could have taken Suze to the hospital and Dad just pick me up," David pointed out.
Helen smiled sheepishly. "She had me half convinced nothing was wrong and I could pick you up."
"So why did we still go to the hospital?" Andy asked remembering the long wait that resulted into nothing and had been an exhausting waste of time.
"I was punishing her for lying, I didn't know what she was lying about but I knew she was."
The boys exchanged horrified looks as Andy chortled. Parents are evil! Evil I tell you!
The thing is, I guess dying - even for just half an hour - can be very exhausting.
Everyone shuddered at that reminder.
I woke ravenous with hunger. After my mom and Andy left - having extracted from me a promise that I would not leave the house all day, but would instead wait meekly for them to return, so that they could reassess my state of health at that time - I downed two bagels and a bowl of Special K before Sleepy and Dopey even showed up at the table, looking all tussle-headed and unkempt. I, on the other hand, had already showered and dressed, and was ready to face the day ... or at least unemployment, since I wasn't certain the Pebble Beach Hotel and Golf Resort was going to extend my contract with them, due to my having missed two days of work in a row.
"Oh please," Jake snorted, "they never fire anyone unless they did something to ruin their reputation. Being off sick for two days isn't going to get you fired."
Sleepy, however, reassured me on that account.
"Naw, it's cool," he said as he shovelled Cheerios into his mouth. "I talked to Caitlin. I told her you were going through, you know, a thing. On account of the dead dude in the backyard. She was okay with it."
"Was this before or after you dumped her?" Andy eyed his eldest suspiciously.
"Caitlin doesn't have the power to fire Suze anymore since she now lives in San Francesco and plans to get a job there," Jake rolled his eyes. "She was only summer staff like the rest of us."
"Really?" I wasn't actually listening to Sleepy. Instead, I was watching Dopey eat, always an awe-inspiring sight. He stuffed one entire half of a bagel into his mouth and seemed to swallow it whole.
Helen turned a pale shade of green while Andy looked at his middle son in disgust. Unfortunately it did nothing to dampen the self-congratulating grin on Brad's face.
I wished I had a camera so I could record the event for posterity. Or at least prove to the next girl who declared my stepbrother a babe how wrong she was.
Brad scowled, Jake smirked, David giggled slightly, and Andy supressed a smile at that.
I watched as, without lifting his gaze from the newspaper spread out before him, Dopey stuffed the other half of the bagel into his mouth and, again without chewing, ingested it, the way snakes devour rats.
Helen shuddered at that. How revolting.
It was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen. Well, apart from the beetles in the orange juice container.
Bad shivered at the memory. He didn't need that reminder at all.
"Oh." Sleepy leaned back in his chair and plucked something from the counter behind him. "And Caitlin said to give this to you. It's from the Slaters. They checked out yesterday."
I caught the envelope he tossed. It was lumpy. There was something hard in it. Susan, it said, on the outside.
"Susannah!" Helen snapped furiously at the book.
"They weren't supposed to check out until today," I said, ripping the envelope apart.
"Who cares, it's one day less of that creep," Jake said cheerfully.
"Well." Sleepy shrugged. "They left early. What can I tell you?"
"You have had a sudden change of attitude there," David said.
"What can I say?" Jake shrugged. "I didn't know what a creep Paul was until now."
I read the first letter enclosed in the envelope. It was from Mrs Slater. It said,
"SUSANNAH! HER NAME IS SUSANNAH!"
What can I say? You did such wonders for our Jack. He is like a different boy. Things have always been much harder for Jack than for Paul. Jack just isn't as bright as Paul, I suppose.
"Neither of my elder sons are as intelligent as David but I don't make a point in telling people that," Andy grumbled under his breath.
In any case, we were very sorry not to be able to say good-bye, but we did have to leave earlier than expected. Please accept this small token of our appreciation, and know that Rick and I are eternally in your debt.
Folded into this note was a check for two hundred dollars. I'm not kidding. That wasn't my pay for the week, either. That was my tip.
Brad wolf whistled at that. "I should join up as a babysitter this summer if that's the sort of pay I can get," he said thoughtfully.
"A summer job would be good for you," Andy encouraged him. Just please God pass English this year, he didn't say out loud.
I laid the check and the letter down beside my cereal bowl and took the next note out of the envelope. It was from Jack.
You saved my life. I know you don't believe it, but you did. If you hadn't done what you did for me, I would still be afraid. I don't think I will ever be afraid again. Thank you, and I hope your head feels better. Write to me if you ever get a chance.
"Awwww, how sweet," Helen cooed once more.
P.S. Please don't ask me anymore about Paul. I'm sorry about what he did. I'm sure he didn't mean it. He is not so bad. J
"Poor deluded kid," Jake scoffed, "not so bad? The guy is a creep and I'm sure he meant it. Every last bit of it."
Oh, right, I thought, cynically. Not so bad? The guy was a creep! He could walk freely within the land of the dead, and yet when his own brother was being terrified out of his wits by the fact that he could see dead people, the guy didn't lift a finger to explain. Not so bad. The guy was very bad. I sincerely hoped I never saw him again.
"Here, here," Jake agreed.
There was a second postscript to Jack's letter.
P.P.S. I thought you might want to have this. I don't know what else to do with it. J
I tilted the envelope, and to my great surprise, out popped the miniature of Jesse I'd seen on Clive Clemmings's desk, back at the historical society. I looked down at it, stunned.
"Oh I hope she returns it or no one finds out she has it," Helen moaned, "I can so see her being arrested for stealing it now."
I would have to give it back. That was my first thought. I had to give it back. I mean, wouldn't I? You can't just keep things like that. That would be like stealing.
"Exactly! Send it back," Helen urged her daughter.
"But Mom, if she does that they'll trace it back to her and arrest her for suspicion of thievery anyway," David pointed out.
Helen groaned, "I can't win, can I?"
Except that somehow, I didn't think Clive would mind. Especially after Dopey looked up from the paper and went, "Yo, we're in here."
Sleepy glanced up from the automobile section he'd been scanning, as usual, for a '67 black Camaro with less than fifty thousand miles.
"Get out," he said, in a bored voice.
"I thought Brad was being a lying twat."
"Oh thanks Bro," Brad said sarcastically, "nice to know you trust me so much."
"No, seriously," Dopey said. "Look."
He turned the paper around, and there was a picture of our house. Alongside it was a photo of Clive Clemmings and a reproduction of Maria's portrait.
I snatched the paper away from Dopey.
"Susannah! I taught you better than that!"
"Hey," he yelled. "I was reading that!"
"Let somebody who can pronounce all the big words have a try," I said.
And then I read Cee Cee's article out loud for both of them.
She'd written, basically, the same story I'd told her, starting with the discovery of Jesse's body - only she called him Hector, not Jesse, de Silva - and then going into Clive's grandfather's theory about his murder. She hit all the right points, hammering it home about Maria's two-faced treachery and Diego's overall ickiness. And without coming out and saying so in as many words, she managed to indicate that none of the couple's offspring ever amounted to much of anything.
"It was brilliant," Jake grinned. He had an urge to reread the article with a smug smirk on his face knowing that the people who harmed his little sister has been burned as well as banished.
Rock on, Cee Cee.
She credited all of her information to the late Dr. Clive Clemmings, Ph.D., who she claimed had been piecing together the mystery at the time of his death a few days earlier. I had a feeling that Clive, wherever he was, was going to be pleased. Not only did he come off looking like a hero for having solved a hundred-and-fifty-year-old murder mystery, but they'd also managed to find a photo of him in which he still had most of his hair.
The boys snorted and Helen had a struggle to hide her smile.
"Hey," Dopey said when I was finished reading. "How come they never mentioned me? I'm the one who found the skeleton."
"Brad," Andy sighed, "it isn't something you should brag about."
"Trust me, Dad," Brad muttered feeling a little sick, "I don't want to brag about accidentally putting a shovel in Suze's boyfriend's head."
Jake struggled not to find the mental image amusing while David felt rather sick. He knew, illogically as it was, he was going to have nightmares about this.
"Oh, yeah," Sleepy said in disgust. "Your role was really crucial. After all, if it wasn't for you, the guy's skull might still have been intact."
"Urgh," Helen moaned clutching her stomach.
Dopey launched himself at his older brother. As the two of them rolled on the floor,
Andy and Helen glared at their eldest two. "Consider yourself grounded for another week Brad for fighting."
"Dad!" Brad wailed against the unfairness of it all.
Making a thunderous noise their father would never have put up with if he'd been home, I set the paper aside and returned to my envelope from the Slaters. There was still one more slip of paper inside it.
"From Mr Slater?" David asked disbelievingly.
Suze, the strong, slanting handwriting on it read. Apparently, it was not to be . . . for now.
"Unless something happened between Mr Slater and Suze that we have not been made aware of, I doubt it," Andy scowled.
"It's from that creep," Jake snarled.
Paul. I couldn't believe it. The note was from Paul.
"I can! That guy is a creep!"
I know you have questions. I also know you have courage. What I wonder is whether you have the courage to ask the question that is the hardest for someone of our ... persuasion.
In the meantime, remember: If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. But if you teach him to fish, he'll eat all the fish you might have caught for yourself.
"As correct as that proverb is," David said pushing his glasses up his nose, "it does not apply to ghosts, they need help to move on because they are unable to do things in the living world. Paul, I find, is too selfish and self-absorbed to consider this. He is rather cold and brutal, isn't he?"
"A little part of me can't blame him for that," Andy agreed, "It's those parents of his."
Just a little something to keep in mind, Suze.
Gosh, I thought. What a charmer. No wonder we never clicked.
"Thank God," Jake muttered.
The hardest question of all? What was that? And what persuasion were we, precisely? What did this guy know that I didn't? Plenty, apparently.
"Not that much I bet," Jake muttered.
One thing I did know, though. Whatever else Paul was - and I was not at all convinced he was a mediator - he was a jerk. I mean Paul had pretty much left Jack out to dry not once, but twice, first by never once bothering to say Hey, don't worry, kid, for folks like you and me, it's normal to see dead people all over the place, and the second time by leaving him alone in that church while those two psychos were tearing up the place.
Helen shuddered and the others either flinched, grimaced, or scowled at the book. They all found Paul disgusting to do that to his brother.
Not to mention what, I was convinced, he'd done to Jesse, someone he had not even known.
And for that, I'd never forgive him.
"Good," Helen muttered.
And I certainly wasn't about to trust him. Or his opinions on fishing.
David couldn't help but snort at that.
Disgusted as I was with him, however, I didn't throw his note away. It would, I decided, have to be shown to Father Dom, who, a phone call had reassured me, was doing well - just a little sore, was all.
"That's a relief."
While Sleepy and Dopey rolled around - Dopey yelling, "Get offa me, homo" - I picked up my bounty and went back upstairs. Heck, it was my day off. I wasn't going to spend it indoors, despite my mother's orders.
"Susannah," Helen said warningly.
I decided to give Cee Cee a call and see what she was up to. Maybe the two of us could hit the beach. I deserved, I thought, a little R and R.
"I'm glad we spent hours in the hospital," Helen said cheerfully, "it can be considered punishment for Suze trying to disobey me."
When I got to my room, I saw that Jesse was already up. He doesn't usually pay morning visits.
"What is he, a vampire?" Brad muttered.
On the other hand, I don't normally sleep for thirty-six hours straight, so I guess neither of us were really sticking to the schedule.
In any case, I hadn't expected to see him there, and so I jumped about a foot and a half and quickly hid the hand carrying his miniature behind my back.
"I don't think Jesse would have cared if she had his picture," David rolled his eyes, "especially if she told him Jack gave it to her."
I mean, come on. I don't want him to think I like him or anything.
"Too late," Brad scoffed.
"If you didn't want him to know you liked him then you shouldn't have rambled on like that in the afterlife," Jake rolled his eyes.
"You're awake," he said from the window seat where he'd been sitting with Spike and a copy of Abby Hoffman's Steal This Book that I happen to know he'd stolen from my mother's bookshelf downstairs.
"I knew I wasn't going crazy when my books kept disappearing and reappearing!" Helen cried out before glaring at her husband.
"I was being honest when I said I had nothing to do with it!" Andy protested.
"You still made me think I was going mad," Helen muttered.
"Um," I said, sidling over to my bed. Maybe, if I was quick enough, I could thrust his picture under my pillow before he noticed. "Yes, I am."
"How do you feel?" he asked me.
"Disobedient," Helen said, still miffed at her daughter's attempt to sneak down to the beach.
"Me?" I asked, like there was somebody else in the room he could possibly have been asking.
The boys snorted.
Jesse laid the book down and looked at me with another one of those expressions on his face. You know, the kind I can never read.
"Yes, you," he said. "How do you feel?"
"Fine," I said. I made it to the bed. I sat down on it, and quick as a mongoose - I've never seen one in action, but I've heard they're pretty fast - I thrust the check, the letters, and the miniature under my pillow. Then I relaxed.
The boys rolled their eyes. Honestly Jesse really wouldn't have cared. Girls, they're ridiculous.
"I feel great," I said.
"Good," he said. "We need to talk."
"Isn't that usually what the girl says?"
Suddenly I didn't feel so relaxed anymore. In fact, I sprang to my feet. I don't know why, but my heart started beating very fast.
Helen squealed quietly at that much to her stepsons' embarrassment.
Talk? What does he want to talk about? My mind was going a hundred miles a second. I suppose we should talk about what happened. I mean, it was very scary and all of that, and I nearly died, and like Paul said, I do have a lot of questions...
But what if that was what Jesse wanted to talk about? The part where I nearly died, I mean?
"No!" Helen sang delighted.
I didn't want to talk about that. Because the fact is, that whole part, that part where I nearly died, well, I nearly died trying to save him. Seriously. I was hoping he hadn't noticed, but I could tell by the look on his face that he totally had. Noticed, I mean.
"How could he not?" Jake asked with an eye roll.
And now he wanted to talk about it. But how could I talk about it? Without letting it slip? The L word, I mean.
"Oh for Christ sake!" Andy snarled in frustration. "Teenagers, honestly!"
"You know what," I said, very fast. "I don't want to talk. Is that okay? I really, really don't want to talk. I am all talked out."
"Susie! You're going to miss out on his confession if you push him away!" Helen yelled out in horror.
Jesse lifted Spike off his lap and put him on the floor. Then he stood up.
Helen leaned in, eager to find out what Jesse was going to say.
What was he doing? I wondered. What was he doing?
I took a deep breath, and kept talking about not talking.
"I'm just - Look," I said, as he took a step toward me. "I'm just going to give Cee Cee a call and maybe we'll go to the beach or something, because I really ... I just need a day off."
"Oh God, shut up Suze before you ruin it!" Helen shouted at the book.
Another step toward me. Now he was right in front of me.
Jake glared at the book, Brad grimaced, and David suddenly wished they were reading another fight scene instead of this.
"Especially," I said significantly, looking up at him, "from talking. That's what I especially need a day off from. Talking."
"Fine," he said. He reached up and cupped my face in both his hands. "We don't have to talk."
"What the hell does that mean?!" Jake yelped.
And that's when he kissed me.
"OH MY GOD!"
On the lips.
Helen let out a high shrill squeal of celebration and excitement that deafened everyone around her. When she finished she looked at Brad eagerly. "Well?" she demanded.
"What happened next?"
"Nothing," Brad shrugged, "that's the end of the diary."
Helen leaped for the next diary and hurriedly opened the book almost tearing it out of her desperation and eagerness to find out what happened next after Jesse kissed Suze.