The Cracked Shadow – Excerpt #2
“Let me out over there,” Gina asked when they were a block
away from the TV Station.
“You don’t have to go to work,” Terri said. “I’ve called and
you have well deserved vacation coming to you.”
“I know. Thank you. It’s something else.”
“You’re coming to the office with us,” Max said.
“I’ll walk there. I need to walk there,” she insisted. Terri
understood. Gina wanted to test a theory. She wanted to see whether her stalker would come back or whether she was free for good. Max seemed to understand what she was saying as well, but obviously didn’t like the idea.
They let her go, watching her blue parka merge with last minute Christmas shoppers.
“Do you think Hillary’s going to pay us a visit?” Max asked, as they sped up, attempting to merge with the traffic.
“Not if she got hold of good tranquilizers,” Terri replied.
“Do you think we should see someone who’s an expert on parapsychic phenomena?”
“At the university. Maybe someone at the psychology department though not Dr. Jonas.”
“Do you mean someone who’d be able to give us an academic explanation?” she asked.
“Something like that.”
“Gina can do that better than anyone I know.”
“Not this time, Terri. She’s too close to the issue. She’s scared, but not confused. That surprises me. She’s accepted what’s happened at face value, but she doesn’t want to hear an explanation. Not a scientific or academic one, not even a lay theory.”
“It probably has a lot to do with her sensitivity.”
“And everything else,” he sighed. “What happened ten years ago, what happened during the seven years at Parmenter’s, and what’s happening now.”
“Do you think those drugs they fed her for seven years might have increased her sensitivity even further, to where she actually sees
“She doesn’t see them, Terri. They seek her out. That’s what I meant by saying it has a lot to do with what happened in Slesmon ten years ago.”
“Your sensitivity seems to be on the rise, Max, but I’m still not following you.”
“Margaret McBride helped out a lot of people, including us.”
“Well, I have to admit, that her ghostly tip was helpful. It’s damn civic minded. If she was alive, I’d say she’s one courageous citizen.”
“She’s protective, wouldn’t you say?” he persisted.
“Gina was sought out by a protective ghost. What does that tell you?”
“That I wouldn’t mind having her kind of guardian angels?” She laughed.
“And when do people need guardian angels?”
She leaned to look at him. “What do you mean? All the time.”
He shook his head. “Not at all.”
“Max, are you suggesting that Gina’s in danger?”
“Something like that, but don’t ask me to explain.”
“It’s just a feeling, right? You’re being sensitive.”
“I believed those stories Abigail told us. She was frightened. I wanted to protect her. I never got a chance.”
“I’m not losing it. I was a shy kid, but I knew my father wanted me to be tough, so I played up. I did the reverse of what Gina’s doing with Cramden’s warden. I tried to do everything he wanted to see – a rough-and-tumble kid – hockey, football and soccer. He took me rock climbing when I was twelve. I hate heights, but I gritted my teeth all the way to the top. I chipped a tooth I bit down so hard. I convinced myself that I’d killed all weaknesses my father hated. I dated girls that were my father’s idea of woman he thought was right for me. Maybe that’s why I went through so many. It was a game to see how long I could fool him. I had to keep changing players, because none were worth keeping. Becoming a cop helped, too. I learned techniques to de-sensitize. I’ve done a good job of it, don’t you think so?” He turned to her with a grin.
“We’re not having this conversation, Max, right?”
He shook his head. “We’re having it. It’s official, and I’m all right. What I’m I’m trying to tell you is that I don’t know how I know. It’s just my feeling, but Gina’s in danger. But what kind, I’d be hard pressed to tell you. Margaret McBride didn’t want her to go near that bank. She also didn’t want anyone else to suffer what happened to her.
“Gina was walking north. It was three-fifteen when she left the message. Maybe she would have walked back on the other side and happened by the bank at three-forty-two, just as the robbery was in progress. We both know that the Romano brothers would have left quite a few bodies behind with those assault rifles. That’s what that message was about.”
“So you believe there was a message?”
“If you believe that the ghosts are protecting – or rather warning Gina – why not ghosts from her family? Her mother, her grandparents…?”
“That would scare her like nothing else.”
“Margaret McBride frightened her too.”
“Not as much as Gina would have been had she seen her mother’s ghost. Remember, she saw the brown stain on Margaret’s coat. We know now what that stain is – we’ve seen Margaret’s corpse lying on
the floor in a bank in Littleton, Nebraska. She was shot twice in the
chest with a shotgun, point blank. It must have left a gaping hole. But the photographer, thirty one years ago, took that picture when someone had already placed a towel or sheet over Margaret’s chest, no doubt to cover what had to be an ugly wound. Gina saw a spreading blood stain on the beige vinyl jacket. Her mother was shot point blank with a shotgun in the chest. Gina watched her father blow his brains out through the hole in her mother’s chest. Now, don’t you think if your mother’s ghost came to visit you in that state it might send you very quickly into cardiac arrest?”
“So what you’re saying is that kind, considerate and civic-minded ghosts are Gina’s guardian angels? I’d like to see you put that down in a report.”
He laughed. “Hillary would come to bail me out.”
“With tranquilizers, for both of you,” she finished, laughing too. Since they were already pulling into the parking lot, it was time to step back into their roles as rational police officers.
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