“Aubrey told me she was killed.”
Raef shook himself mentally. “I thought your sister’s spirit was having a hard time communicating about her death.” He’d witnessed that. He’d asked her about her murder and she definitely hadn’t communicated with him.
“She is having a hard time communicating. When I say she told me I don’t mean that she actually said, ‘Hey, sis, I was murdered.’ I mean she told me in here.” Lauren closed her fist over her heart. “There are things she’s not allowed to put into words, but I can feel them. She and I have always been two halves of the same whole. I don’t know how else to explain it because if you’re not us, it might be impossible to comprehend. Add to the whole confusing mix that whatever is going on after Aub’s death is affecting me, and you have some serious weirdness. Raef, the truth is, even I don’t understand what’s really happening. I was hoping you could help me—help us. Please help us, Raef.”
Raef paused, studied Lauren and collected his thoughts. When he finally spoke it was slowly, as if he was processing information aloud. “The police ruled her death an accident, but your twin has made it clear to you, and only you, that she was murdered. Is that correct?”
“And even though she manifests to you, which I’ve witnessed, there still seems to be some barrier between the two of you, as if she’s being blocked or controlled by another force?”
“Yes, especially when she tries to communicate with me directly about her murder.” She sounded incredibly relieved. “You can’t know what a relief it is to talk to someone who doesn’t call me a freak and who will actually listen to me!”
His smile was authentic, but grim. “Try being a nine-year-old who can Track negative emotions, and only negative emotions. I understand what it’s like to be discounted and called a freak.”
Lauren expelled a long breath in a relieved sigh. Her shoulders relaxed and she finally took a sip of her coffee. “Good. Then we talk the same language.”
“So your sister is actually possessing you,” he said, looking up from the notes he was taking. That was unusual. Possession by a spirit wasn’t unheard of, of course, but spirits didn’t usually possess family members. He couldn’t remember ever hearing of one twin possessing another.
“Well, I don’t know if you’d call it real possession. She manifests, like she did earlier, and we can talk.” She paused, blinking hard as if trying to keep herself from crying. “I miss her. A lot. I don’t feel normal without her.” Lauren shook her head and wiped at her eyes. “But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that when she does try to communicate with me about her death, she gets ripped away from here and I can feel what’s happening to her, and it’s like …” Lauren’s words trailed off. She shuddered. “It’s like I’m being killed, too.”
“Hang on. Your sister’s already dead. Maybe what you’re feeling is her struggle to stay attached to you while her spirit is being drawn to the Otherworld. Lauren, the truth is that for most spirits it is difficult for them to remain on this plane of existence. They should be moving on.” He tried to speak soothingly, but he wasn’t good at the touchy-feely stuff. Plus, it was looking more and more as if he should just refer Lauren and her family, dead and alive, to the After Moonrise medium.
“You’re not getting it,” Lauren said, looking more and more animated. “Aubrey isn’t moving on. She can’t. He’s not done killing her.”
Lauren sighed. “This is what Aubrey has been able to tell me: her killer has bound her spirit. He’s bound all of their spirits. Physical death was just the beginning of their murders. He doesn’t stop until he drains their souls of life, too. You have to find him. He’s not done killing.”
“And you know that this psychic serial killer is draining spirits because your sister told you in there.” Raef pointed to where Lauren still clenched her fist over her heart.
Her spine stiffened and her chin went up. “Don’t patronize me, Raef. I know it the same way you know you’re talking to ghosts of the dead instead of your own overactive imagination, even though no one else can see and feel what you do.”
“All right.” He nodded his head slowly. “You got me there.” He stood up and took his keys from his desk drawer. “Then let’s go.”
“To the scene of Aubrey’s accident.”
“You mean to the place she was murdered,” Lauren said firmly.
“Either way, I need to check it out.” He raised a dark brow at her when she didn’t move. “You did know that it is my standard procedure to go to the site of the death, didn’t you?”
“Yes—yes, I knew,” she stuttered. “It’s just that, well, I haven’t been back there since.”
“Not once? Not even when your sister has been manifesting to you?”
Lauren shook her head. “No.” The word was a whisper.
“I can take you home first,” he said, walking around his desk to her. “We can talk afterward and—”
“Would it be better if I come with you?” she interrupted, her voice sounding firmer. “I mean, for you and the investigation.”
“It probably would be, especially because your situation is so unique.”
Lauren stood. “Then I’ll go.”
THE TRIP FROM THE After Moonrise downtown offices to Mid-town’s Swan Lake was short and silent. Not that Raef minded. He was naturally quiet and never had understood the need most people felt to chatter uncomfortably to fill a peaceful lull. He also had to ready himself for what would happen when he visited the site of a death and opened himself to the psychic images left there. Accident or murder, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the damn park, and it was always better to take a quiet moment to center himself first.
As he drove down Utica Street, he glanced at Lauren. Her face was pale and set. She was staring straight ahead. He thought she looked like a marble sculpture of herself.
“It’s not going to be that bad,” he said, turning right at the entrance to the lake and parking his car along the curb that ringed the area. “I’m the psychic, remember?” Raef tried to add some lightness to the moment.
She turned cold blue eyes on him. “She was my sister. My twin. We’ve been together since we were conceived. Psychic or not, going to the place where she was killed scares me.”
Before he could even try to come up with something comforting to say, her gaze moved from his to Swan Lake. She shook her head and gave a little humorless laugh, saying, “It’s stupid to call this place a lake. It’s tiny. Except for having water, there’s nothing ‘lake’ about it.”
“They call it Swan Lake because Swan Pond doesn’t sound right,” he said.
She looked back at him. “I hate this place.”
He nodded. “That’s a normal reaction, Lauren. Your sister died here—of course you have a strong negative reaction to it.”
“There’s more to it than that.”
He wanted to tell her that the relatives of the dead always felt like there was more to it than simple death, even if it took their loved one peacefully, in the middle of the night, during the winter of life. Instead, he swallowed back the condescension and said, “Are you ready? You can wait here if you need to.”